Tuesday, 1 November 2011

THE MAGICIAN'S DAUGHTER: Little Angel Puppet Theatre on Tour. Penny Dolan

“It’s all gone wrong. Oh boo and foo and gloo!”

Only it didn’t go wrong at all. Boo and foo and gloo! is one of the lines from THE MAGICIAN’S DAUGHTER a delight of a puppet show coming from the Little Angel Theatre and the RSC. I watched the play with two young children in the Studio at Harrogate Theatre last Friday and heard the line chanted over and over again over the following days.

"Isabella flying "puppet

The Magician’s Daughter was a perfect example of show for young children. Written by Michael Rosen and inspired by Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”, the two "human" roles are those of the young Isabella and her mother Miranda -  Prospero’s daughter - and their world is being spoiled by rainstorms.

The plot is suitably simple. Helped by a magical book from her grandfather’s old wooden chest, Isabella flies by night to a magical Isle so she can re-unite the two halves of Prospero’s broken staff, using the magic to stop the everlasting rain. On the Isle she meets the two main puppet characters: the elegant, mocking Ariel living among branches full of fruit and the slow, angry greenish-coloured Caliban searching for truffles down on the ground. Isabella tries to help the two squabbling inhabitants make peace.

Small children, especially those likely to be unfamiliar with real-world puppets, were drawn into the story carefully. The show began with the sounds of stormy weather, and the two actors huddled under an umbrella singing a simple joining-in kind of song: “Drip drop! Will it never stop?” and then Clare Rebekkah Pointing’s  portrayal of young Isabella, totally fed up with the rain.  The puppets were gradually introduced. First came the early shadow puppets seen through the "window", and then by the flying “Isabella puppet” being flown in her dream by the real Isabella, both dressed in identical nightgowns.

Ariel and Caliban
The play kept the young audience’s attention throughout. The plot had clearly defined steps, such as the scene-change from the child’s room to the island. There were some special effects to catch the eyes, such as the moving wooden chest and light shining from the magic book. There was a clever mix of music and song throughout, led by Lizzie Wort, who also acted as the warm, lively and motherly Miranda.  In case the children were getting lost by the action of the story, there were moments of direct to-the-audience involvement and memorable songs.

The performance was advertised as being from “three upwards” so the audience was very much family-based. My borrowed five-year-old boy and seven-year-old girl were kept fully involved by the layers and variety within the play and everyone around there seemed to be enjoying it too. I even saw a couple of sullen pre-teens nearby smiling in the darkness.
My final point of praise goes to the script, which was written by Michael Rosen and whose voice is heard narrating the introduction. The script not only "tells the story" , but is enriched throughout by a whole range of language; it also contains occasional lyrical lines from “The Tempest”, a scattering of lively Italian expressions, and plenty of the rhyming, repeated child-friendly word play that came home with us afterwards. Much loved was Caliban’s attempts at the name Isabella – Ellabella! Izzybelly! – along with the now famous family saying  “Oh boo and foo and gloo!”.

The Magicians Daughter is a gem of a puppet play - better and more magical than the video on the Little Angel website suggests.  It was wonderfully worked by the actors and puppeteers - congratulations to all of you! -  and was an experience that stays in the mind and on the tongue. Better still, The Magician's Daughter is still on tour  a while longer!

ps. The Little Angel Company has two shows on at its home, the Little Angel Puppet Theatre in Islington, London. Just right for the winter season.




Ann Turnbull said...

This sounds wonderful! I know a three-year-old who would love this show.

Emma Barnes said...

As The Tempest is one of my favourites this sounds very tempting...what would you say was the age-range of the children there?

Penny Dolan said...

Four to eight, some threes & a few nines to tens. And various bigs! The studio made it quite an intimate and friendly space.

Lovely moment when Isabella woke up and the Magic staff had "disappeared" and a little boy called out to the disbelieving Miranda-Mum: "It was there, but it flew away!"

adele said...

Lovely!! Hope they come to Cambridge sometime.

InTel XCOMS said...

little boy called out to the disbelieving Miranda-Mum: "It was there, but it flew away!" Thank you

Paeony Lewis said...

Just seen this blog, Penny. You've brought back lovely memories for me because when I was very young we used to go to the puppet theatre at the Little Angel Islington. We usually sat on the bench at the back. Then, when I had my own children, I took them to the Norwich Puppet Theatre (in an atmospheric redundant church), but their shows tended to be too spare and lacked the rich stage design and elaborate puppets I'd enjoyed as a child. I suspect they were more 'arty' but they lacked magic. However, The Magician's Daughter' does look magical and I hope to see it one day.

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