Much Ado About Puffin

Reviewed by Flossie Waite
An Open Attic Company production
Reviewed at Lyric Hammersmith
Touring nationally in Spring 2017

For ages 4+

This is not an adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. Fun as Shakespeare featuring brightly-beaked seabirds sounds, the bard’s work barely features in Open Attic Company’s first production for children (there’s a bit of the ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy, but that’s it). Instead, this is a play about – if not nothing – then not a lot, and what does happen, as the pun in the play’s title suggests, involves a puffin.

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Much Ado About Puffin is a gentle account of the habits and routines that make up a life, and what can happen when they are interrupted. A man lives a solitary life on a small island in the middle of a big sea, completely isolated and living and working alone. He does the same things each day: commuting by boat to his job checking weather instruments,  pretending his fire iron is a fencing sword, gleefully flinging his coat on the floor of his cabin, and listening to whatever station his radio can pick up. And then a puffin turns up at his house, bringing unwanted change and unexpected friendship.

Adam Blake and Debbie Hard use mime, puppeteering and physical choreography to tell this wordless story, with Blake’s clowning and effusive mumbles bringing humour to almost every moment of this 55 minute show. Dean Sudron’s set and Emma Powell’s puppets are intricate and effective. The man’s cabin sits atop a craggy cliff face, opening up like a doll’s house to reveal a miniature interior, including a tiny bookshelf with tiny books. Then the playing space is imaginatively transformed to become that cabin made large, as the performance shifts from puppets to people and back again. This story about everyday life is necessarily slow paced, but there’s not quite enough to sustain attention for the full performance. Much Ado About Puffin is a simple, contemplative piece that feels lovingly made.

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