Saturday 20 April 2013

Monty and Mirabella

Hackney Children's Theatre, London


Written & directed by Sarah Redmond

Lucy Harwood and Nathan Potter
Monty and Mirabella is a delightful work of children’s theatre. In a world where so much entertainment is delivered to kids via electronic screens, to see two young actors telling a sweet kiddies tale without words simply by way of acting, mime and brightly coloured props is a treat.

The venue was packed on a Saturday morning, with children seated on a rug and parents sat behind them.  The show is performed close up to the audience, allowing moments of delighted audience participation and also ensuring that attention can be as focussed as possible upon close-up action, rather than some far-off stage.

Whimsically set in a park on a sunny blue-skied afternoon what the show lacks in plot, it makes up for in performance and educational intention. Nathan Potter and Lucy Harwood are the heroes of the show’s title. Harwood arrives, miming  the walking of and chasing after, an invisible dog and instantly the kids are gigglingly entranced. Potter’s inept klutz of a character has the kids laughing at him too, but the neatly timed and well drilled choreography combined with Sarah Redmond’s eye for movement that will engage even the youngest audience member, ensures that the 40 minute show passes all too quickly.

The show has a sensible social conscience. Along with delightfully ridiculous games of hide and seek and the occasional opportunity for the kids to shout out “he’s behind you”, it also teaches that dog-dirt should be dealt with responsibly and that using suncream is a good idea – though there are squeals of cheeky hilarity all round when Monty finds himself liberally applying aerosol squirts of silly-string rather than SPF 25.

Monty and Mirabella is a charming way to either introduce or re-inforce theatre as an art form to a young audience.  It’s a more colourful version of a moderately slapstick Hollywood silent movie and when any show has a nod to Bizet’s Carmen that hints at a flamenco with spacehoppers, what’s not to like?

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