Review written by Flossie Waite
A Paper Balloon Production
For ages 3+
Upcoming performances: Saturday 31st January 2015 at 11am & 2pm at Salisbury Arts Centre
Everyone knows what a fairy is – elves, goblins and gnomes are pretty recognizable too – but I would struggle to pick a sprite out of a line up. Once Upon A Snowflake fills this gap in knowledge with imaginative characteristics for this magical creature. Initially detail-heavy, it is delightful once the audience interaction begins.
Sprites are dangerous, driving innocent souls to distraction by telling stories in their ear. When Liza goes missing, sprite experts Alexi (Alex Kanefsky) and Daria (Dorie Kinnear) are on the case, sure that the mischievous little creatures might have something to do with it. But they can’t solve the mystery alone; the audience must become Spriteologists too.
Alexi and Daria are vaguely Victorian in style and costume, and there is an ongoing conceit that though they sometimes struggle with their job, they desperately try to keep up appearances. The resulting restraint and wordy explanations are lost on the very young audience but once an actual sprite shows up and wreaks havoc, it all loosens up, and the play really gets going.
In fact, it’s when the production veers most off script that it shines. As it turns out, the only thing that will bring a sprite back to life is hearing a story that has never been told before. Rounding up items from the audience as props and incorporating their suggestions, Kinnear and Kanefsky, accompanied by musician and sound man Darren Clark, perform a free-spirited and funny tale (who knew a puffa jacket could make a convincing butterfly?)
Once Upon A Snowflake could definitely be shorter, and there are a few changes that might make it more accessible to the very young audience, like having a picture of a sprite right at the beginning. There are times that the story seems confused and needs reordering, for instance Liza is described as always having a ponytail, but a long shadow puppetry sequence shows a girl with pigtails. It is only afterwards that it becomes clear that the changed hairstyle is just one symptom of the sprite’s impact.
The production does, however, pack a lot into just under an hour – shadow puppetry, songs, storytelling, audience interaction. Though Once Upon A Snowflake has a few kinks to work out, it should be celebrated for trying to do too much rather than too little.
Follow Children’s Theatre Reviews @ctheatrereviews