Monday, 19 November 2012

Too Many Penguins - Review

Polka Theatre, London


Dramaturg  Brenda Murphy

Director Heather Fulton

The review was first published in The Public Reviews
The colourful staging of Too Many Penguins
Too Many Penguins is a delightful piece of children’s theatre, aimed mainly at 3 – 4 year olds but with occasional toddler-friendly performances for 1 – 2 year olds throughout the run. Accompanied to a lunchtime performance by 21 month old Layla, The Public Reviews was able to truly gauge the impact of this Polka Theatre show upon its target audience.

Set somewhere in Antarctica, the 40 minute story revolves around a delightful Latina penguin, Penguina, and her charmingly stuffy, FT reading, polar bear of a neighbour, Mr Polaro, who amongst other things , has a responsibility for maintaining the local lighthouse. Partial to jazz, Polaro has a modest vinyl collection , played on a genuine turntable, which sets some of the show’s musical ambience, other musical interludes include a delightfully squeaky Faith by George Michael, given a distinctly Hispanic feel. Whilst Polaro is an English educated bear, Penguina speaks a pidgin language, but with sufficient key words in her vocabulary so as to be understood by the toddler audience.

When the mischievous Penguina is not scribbling on the lighthouse , to gasps of disbelief from the audience at such naughtiness, she is busy welcoming numerous members of her family who have come to visit. The arrival of boat and car and balloon loads of cuddly penguins that follows is delightful, and the ingenious nature of the production’s simple effects had the children wide eyed in amazement.

By the time the tale is told, a couple of dozen penguins are sharing the stage with Penguina and Polaro and when they are gently thrown into the audience for a participative finale the shrieks of delight are a joy.

Samuel Jameson and Clare Fraenkel perform the piece, cleverly costumed so as to be recognisable as bear and penguin, but open-faced so as not to be in any way frightening to the children.

Layla did not stop smiling throughout the performance, clapping her hands before the show was ended such was her appreciation of the excellence on display. The Polka is a wonderful venue, aimed exclusively at children and their parents or carers and this production entertains and stimulates amongst a sea of grinning faces.

In repertory until February 16 2013

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