Review written by Flossie Waite
A Little Angel Theatre and Goblin co-production
Reviewed at Little Angel Theatre
Running until 20th November 2016
For ages 7+
Looking back over everything I’ve seen on Little Angel’s main stage, I realise that the same types of productions have almost always been on my plate: fairytales, book adaptations and operas. It’s been a satisfying, if not too varied, diet and I could quite happily have continued existing on this comfort food, until yesterday when they brought Emily Rising to the table and now my proverbial taste-buds will never be the same again.
Emily wakes up one morning to find her feet no longer touch the ground. No one can understand why, and nothing seems to bring her back down to earth – the gap between the floor and her trainers grows wider and wider. But in a world that could do with looking up from the pavement and into the sky a bit more often, Emily is happy to enjoy her adventure.
Some things that made this play refreshingly different: it is contemporary, with characters Whatsapping each other and sharing their love of Beyonce. It is local – Emily’s family live off the Essex Road and head to Clissold Park on Bonfire Night, and, not for nothing, it’s a nice change to hear North London accents that are nowhere near RP. It takes the Jacqueline Wilson approach to storytelling aka including real-life issues that real children in the audience might relate to – Emily’s parents are divorced and she’s not sure how she feels about her dad. It marks the first time in all the plays I’ve reviewed at Little Angel that the central characters are black. And it eschews a traditional happy ending in favour of an ambiguous one – loose ends are never tied up, but left to fly free.
Another couple of things that I really liked about Emily Rising: it cheekily rejects authority, with doctors, social services, teachers and the police all shown to be pretty useless and predictably bureaucratic, either offering hopeless advice or passing her off to someone else. When a mix-up leads to a Child Protection officer visiting Emily’s home, the puppet’s body is a massive stack of overflowing files and folders, her face a clipboard that has pages ripped off to reveal new emotions. The officer’s body, like all of the puppet bodies, is an upturned triangle shape that fades into a point as if it were getting further and further away. The dwindling triangle shape is repeated throughout the set, in buildings and gardens, and plays with near/far perspective so that it feels like the audience are floating above everything on stage and looking down, just like Emily.
The cooking metaphor is clichéd but it’s getting the job done (!), so here are some of the new ingredients that contributed to this comfort-zone-defying production. Emily Rising is a new piece of writing from Dan Rebellato, who adapted it from his original radio play (you can read his thoughts on adapting for the stage here). It is a co-production between Little Angel and Goblin Theatre, who interestingly also collaborated on Let’s Fly which is currently on at Little Angel too. And most significantly, Emily Rising is one of the first productions in Artistic Director Samantha Lane’s inaugural season, so let’s hope that this is a taste of things to come…
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