Rosie’s Magic Horse

Review by Flossie Waite
Presented by Peaceful Lion Productions
On tour until 14th November
For ages 3-8
Photo taken by Pamela Raith

You know Austerity isn’t working when it’s up to children to take matters into their own hands. Say what you like about Jeremy Corbyn, but I doubt his economic policy would involve a little girl relying on a magical horse made of discarded lolly sticks to help her parent’s pay the bills. Yes, Rosie’s Magic Horse is fiction, but the story of an ordinary family under huge pressure to make ends meet does seem timely. Particularly when it’s told through a production clearly on a tight budget, an increasingly frequent sight as the government cuts to arts funding continue to bite. Anyway. Peaceful Lion Productions’ latest show sees Rosie and her magic horse travel the world in search of the treasure that will save her family. Adapted from Russell Hoban’s picturebook, this production fails to live up to his kooky concepts.

Rosie collects old ice lolly sticks (because her family are experiencing financial difficulties and presumably because all her local youth centres have been closed down). One night, she falls asleep after overhearing another tense conversation between her parents about money. The lolly sticks rally together to help her by becoming something great – a horse! At least, that’s what seems to be happening – shadows of static stick-like objects appear at the same time as a conversation about helping Rosie can be heard, but it takes a moment to connect who, and what, is meant to be talking. The storyline keeps galloping away like this throughout the show – important plot points are rushed through in big chunks of dialogue, copping out of finding inventive ways to show, rather than tell, the story.

The mane event should have been Stickerino, the magical horse, but the big reveal is underwhelming. He is made out of a cardboard box with a misshapen head that can only be bobbled about rather than effectively puppeteered. Speaking through pre-recorded segments, his conversations with Rosie are therefore stilted; as a character, he never comes to life. That Stickerino’s body is also the icecream stand does make sense, being made out of lolly sticks as he is. However, this doubling is not expressly played upon, but rather noticed when a backstage transformation from one to the other accidentally leaves the glimpse of an icecream visible under Stickerino’s brown body.

Actually, doubling could be one way to inject creativity into the production, a simple but inventive solution to reveal the horse before the audience’s eyes, all the more wondrous for seeing the technical and creative wizardry behind it. This show about being poor should, and could, be rich with imagination.

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