Reviewed by Jenna Lambie Ridgway
A Polka Theatre and Oxford Playhouse co-production
At Polka Theatre until 26th Feb 2017
For ages 3-6
Polka Theatre is on to a hit with this little gem of a production based on the popular children’s book How to Hide a Lion by Helen Stephens. You don’t need to be familiar with the story to enjoy this enchanting mini musical featuring a menagerie of puppets and songs. The intimate Adventure Theatre space at the Polka is an ideal setting for this tale of a little girl, Iris, who befriends a lion and tries to hide him from the grown ups. Said grown ups initially refuse to believe that a lion can be kind but when he captures a burglar and saves the town’s golden candlestick they are quick to reconsider.
The theatre is transformed into an old-fashioned hat shop and the two hat vendors introduce the play with the enchanting words: ‘Every head needs a hat and every hat has a story to tell’. And so the journey begins into a make believe land of puppets with the hat vendors as tour guides. It’s a device that works well for they are expert puppeteers, their puppetry like a tightly choreographed dance that manages to be funny and lifelike all in one. The lion is satisfyingly larger than the rest of the characters and he manages to wiggle his bum in a thoroughly convincing manner.
The small set is used to its full potential and the production value of this performance is impressively high. I was glad to see Phil Yarrow back on stage after his ace performance in Gorilla at Polka years back, and Clare Rebekah Pointing was a joy to watch with her range of accents and character voices. That two actors on a small stage can create such an immersive world is a compliment to the creative team and a testament to the power of storytelling.