A dynamic superhero duo are the perfect protagonists for a company who often produce two-handers (Grandpa’s Railway, One Little Word, Whatever the Weather). Focusing on just a couple of characters allows M6 Theatre to explore the tricky terrain of interpersonal relationships, relevant to their young audience of siblings and school friends. Like previous shows, Tadpoles teaches the kindest way to interact with one another, but with masks rather than morals.
Caped crusaders Captain Clever (Luke Walker) and Captain Conker (Emily Spowage) are too busy squabbling to save the day, so Mission Control (Sue Johnston OBE) issues an ultimatum: get along, or risk demotion. High stakes push them to harness their powers – Clever is brainy, Conker is brave – and work as a team, with a tadpole-catching competition as a catalyst for change.
Tadpoles is more Batman and Robin circa 1966 than Dark Knight Rises. Highly visual, it draws on cartoons and comic strips to combine Walker and Spowage’s incredible facial expressions with oversized choreography courtesy of movement director TC Howard. There are nostalgic nods to crime fighters of yesteryear, not least Tayo Akinbode’s music, which at times emulates the superhero-soundtrack-style so well that you can almost hum along, as well as classic gags such as a meal preceded by “Dinner, dinner, dinner, dinner…”
At the same time, Tadpoles equally feels like a make-believe game of superheroes played by children the world over . Clever and Conker’s bright costumes look a bit like cosy pyjamas, the prohibited playground they scale is the perfect setting for some playtime pretending, and the polite way they address Mission Control as ‘Ma’am’ could very easily be ‘Mam’.
Audiences seem most impressed that the tadpoles are ‘real’ (no need to call the NSPCC, but you really will rub your eyes to double-check). Tadpoles is an accessible adventure that packs a punch (POW! WHACK! WALLOP!)
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