You can't fault the Imaginate children's theatre festival for variety. On Monday alone, you could see tutus for two-year-olds, postmodern Irish storytelling for the over-sevens and a through-composed Philip Pullman adaptation.
Best of the bunch is The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly, a tremendously entertaining one-man show by the Ark and Theatre Lovett from Dublin. Finegan Kruckemeyer's surreal tale is about young Peggy O'Hegarty who wakes one morning to find her city deserted. She relishes the chance to cycle through the shopping mall and climb the tallest building, but things get sinister when she finds that even her parents have disappeared. Aided by a mouse called Hildegard, she has only hours to rescue the population from the brink of death.
As well as the vividness of the script, Lynne Parker's production has two great strengths. First is actor Louis Lovett, who combines playfulness, agility and the wide-eyed innocence of Ardal O'Hanlon. His self-referential stops and starts make him no less a compelling storyteller. Second is Paul O'Mahony's set, a crate that unfolds to reveal boxes within boxes, allowing Lovett to switch from domestic interior to city silhouette, while mirroring the girl's family business in packing. It's inspired.
Sacha Kyle's Oops a Daisy is one of four early-years shows by Scotland's Starcatchers. Amiable and crisply choreographed, it's a dance piece about daisies and the natural world. It's also the most slight of their works I've seen.
Slight is not an accusation you could make against Clockwork, a collaboration between Scottish Opera and Visible Fictions, combining the complexity of Pullman's novel with a musical score, large-scale puppetry and live animation. That it does so with such clarity is impressive, even if its heart lies with the two most passive characters, making it narratively strong, but emotionally cool.
© Mark Fisher 2011
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