With school out for the Easter holidays, my daughter and I headed off to a very sunny and beautiful Greenwich to see Les Enfants Terribles’ production of The Marvellous Imaginary Menagerie. The show kicked off the Greenwich Children’s Theatre Festival with aplomb. Sitting in the vibrant cave-like cafe bar, my six year old worryingly declared that the poster for the show looked scary. As we entered the expansive auditorium I tried to reassure her, but she was already distracted by the intriguing set. A Victorian travelling side show had set up camp on the stage and there was a buzz of excitement as the lights went down. An extraordinary troupe of characters introduced themselves and what ensued was mythical, magical mayhem. The lucky audience – surprisingly composed of far more adults than most children’s theatre shows – were utterly enthralled.
Dr Longitude and his eccentric clan flamboyantly regale us with tales of their worldwide endeavours to procure exotic species for their spectacular carnival menagerie. A series of all singing, all dancing and all captivating vignettes follow, reminiscent of the curious little Kinetoscope films of the Victorian era and with the same piano accompaniment. The show is delightfully tongue-in-cheek and genuinely funny for all, including a very amusing Grange Hill reference for the over-40s. The performances were immaculate, high energy and hilarious, especially Popo, my daughter’s favourite character. The physical comedy is masterfully done and there’s not a crevice of the genius set that’s unused. We loved the beautiful puppets of the mysterious discovered creatures – it just felt like anything could happen.
Les Enfants Terribles are known for their innovation and visual ingenuity. It was the first show by this company we’d seen and they certainly didn’t disappoint. Roald Dahl is a big influence on their work, and the heart and attention to detail in all areas was a pleasure to behold. You could tell the talented cast enjoyed every minute too. I loved this show because it was anything but everyday or based in reality, but it reminded me of how we have fun at home with our daughter. It totally encapsulates the daft, joyous fun of uninhibited play.
Simone is a trained actress and has worked in the theatre and television. She has also run drama workshops for children. She now teaches in a primary school in East London and regularly enjoys trips to the theatre with her six year old daughter.