Review by Flossie Waite
Presented by the Little Angel Theatre based on the book by Tim Hopgood
Little Angel Theatre
2nd December 2015 – 31st January 2016
For ages 2-5
Children will ask for their favourite picturebooks over and over, hearing them again and again until every sentence is known by heart and any deviance from the usual enactment quickly pointed out: “Do it again properly” I would strictly tell my parents if the telling wasn’t exactly the same each time. When youngsters are already accustomed to this kind of performance, how to create a version with the warmth and familiarity of a bedtime story, and the magical possibilities of the stage? Wow! Said The Owl tackles this question better than almost any other adaptation for this age.
In Tim Hopgood’s picturebook, a curious owl stays awake to see the daytime. Awed by each new sight and sound, her response is always the same – except at the Little Angel Theatre, it isn’t only her response. The audience are ready and know their lines: “Wooooooowwww! said the owl”.
Wow, indeed – even an audience who know what’s going to happen don’t quite know when, or how. Fiametta Horvat’s white set slowly reveals its secrets from pockets and places around the stage, until it is filled with a rainbow. Performer Lizzie Wort coordinates the colouring-in, drawing out swathes of material for the dawn, donning a round yellow hat as the sun, removing her white feathery coat to reveal a dress of ruffled green grass and orange flowers. Mind you, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows: at one point a grumbling, mean-mouthed cloud, complete with bin-liner body, gobbles all the colour up. Even at these greyest of moments, Wort beams, her performance assured and reassuring.
The best picturebooks are more than the sum of their parts – the interplay between picture and text generates new meaning that would be impossible given just one or the other (it’s this that marks the difference between picturebooks and illustrated books). In a similar way, the combination of Dominic Sales’ incredible music, Horvat’s clever set and Wort’s performance creates a production that is profoundly simple but not simplistic.
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