Seesaw

Review by Flossie Waite
A Unicorn Production
Unicorn Theatre
6th September – 2nd November 2014
Ages 2+

Seesaw is set in a giant sandpit, with time at the end for the audience to play in it. That should be enough to make you to buy a ticket. (But if not, here’s the rest of the review…)

Seesaw recreates the drama of the playground, where a panicked dash to the toilets is commonplace and even a leaf falling is a big deal. When the Boy (Christian Roe) and the Girl (Rebecca Omogbehin) meet, it’s a chance to share the highs and lows of being five, but sometimes it feels like the sandpit ain’t big enough for the both of them. As the seasons pass, they learn that friendship is all about give and take, and that a seesaw only works with two.

As with all productions involving director Sarah Argent, Seesaw is hugely atmospheric, and she is particularly adept at making the most of those first moments. While the audience find their seats, the Girl is already there, wellies on, steadily playing in the sand. When the performance is beginning, she grabs Hairy her toy rabbit and looks out with excitement, her face beaming, in a way that is vaguely conspiratorial as she invites us into her world. I can find no better way to describe what the production’s piano music adds to the atmosphere than Lily Levinson’s description in her review for A Younger Theatre: “Very young children will sometimes watch the world with a particular wide-eyed seriousness, a reflection of the fact that so many things in it are new and strange…[the] oddly melancholy piano music conjures the suggestion of this solemn strangeness for the adults in the room, and enthralls us too.”

Stewart Melton’s script is full of broken sentences that sound like something a child would say (“Need toilet!”), and parent lingo that sounds like something a child would copy (“I’ve had it up to here with you!”). It’s hard to get the delivery of this childlike speech right – it will always seem odd coming out of the mouth of a man with stubble – but you can tell that real efforts have been made. It doesn’t seem stylised with forced childishness, and this stops the whole thing becoming too twee. It’s also very funny, like the Boy on the seesaw trying his best to countdown to rocket launch: “10! 9! 5! 7! 4! 8! 3! 2! 1! Blast Off!

Children can be brutal and the production doesn’t shy away from that; Girl tells Boy, “You are not nice and I don’t like you and I never want to see you again.” Their disagreements may seem silly, but the play takes them seriously and understands that a fight over a juicebox (or a stick or a lost bunny) can feel like the end of the world. Like a seesaw, it balances this with celebrating their endless capacity to forgive and forget, make up and move on. It’s unpatronising and a great piece of theatre. But as I said, even without all of that, it’s worth a watch for the massive sandpit!

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