Review written by Flossie Waite
Half Moon and Full House Theatre present Big Red Bath
Half Moon Theatre
For ages 2-5
Touring nationally until 12th July 2015
Julia Jarman’s picturebook, on which this play is based, portrays domestic routine with a fantastical twist. Half Moon and Full House Theatre’s production depicts essentially the same thing, but throws everything at the adaptation (minus the kitchen sink but with a big red bath). In going above and beyond to create a different experience of the story that befits the stage, Big Red Bath is highly theatrical and even experimental, but at times the content feels padded and gets away from the successful simplicity of the original text.
It’s almost bedtime for Ben and Bella, but first they need a bath. Bubbly fun takes an imaginative turn as toys from the tub become animals that fancy a soak too. Struggling to squeeze everyone in, the bath breaks free for an adventure around the world and into space.
Charlotte Chinn performs as the dog, with Su Nixon and Ben Miles first as Mum and Dad, then taking it in turns to perform a variety of other animals. Characters are explored through music and movement, though this has a tendency to become slightly repetitive. Big Red Bath is hands-down one of the coolest productions you’re likely to see, as the soundtrack is provided by alternative indie-electro-pop trio We Were Evergreen. Alternating between synth beats and breathy folk vocals, it is the backdrop for a shoulder-popping duck and a rave in the bath.
The detailed costumes are a real highlight – said shoulder-popping duck wears an 80s-inspired ensemble with a rapper-meets-ballerina vibe, and the flamingo flight attendants offer high-flying fashion trimmed in pink.
Big Red Bath makes the interesting choice not to portray Ben and Bella; characters mime interactions with them and there’s the occasional sound of their laughter (sometimes this feels eery, though perhaps that’s the influence of too many scary-ghost-girl horror films). This works well in scenes with Mum and Dad playing with Ben and Bella in the bath, but once the animals start piling in, it’s easy to forget the children are meant to be there too. It’s still uncommon to have shows without at least one child character physically present on stage – M6 Theatre Company have been leading the way on this front with shows like Grandpa’s Railway and Whatever the Weather. This is just one of many courageous choices in a bold production; whether they work all the time or not is another question.