Reviewed by Flossie Waite
Produced by Chicken of the Woods Theatre in collaboration with Little Angel Theatre and the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama
Reviewed at Little Angel Studios
For ages 5-11
We’re here to hunt the Snark, but what does a Snark look like? Bellman’s been searching for the mysterious creature for so long, he’s completely forgotten. Some people in the front row seem to know – a Snark is long (long like a sausage, not long like string) with wings, and likes to watch TV. Chicken of the Woods’ adaptation doesn’t stick too closely to the weird and wacky descriptions and events found in Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem: inspired by his zany verse, the performers, with the audience’s help, instead create their own brand of brilliant bizarreness.
So, we know what a Snark looks like, but where to find it? Bellman’s trusty boat, Bark, is more than eager to take his master on a quest across the sea. Excitedly panting like a puppy, Bark (his name a clever pun on the antiquated term for a ship) really is (Bell)man’s best friend, and can’t help the occasional woof. Bellman gathers together a motley crew for this canine vessel: Bertram the affectionate and loyal beaver, the culinarily close-minded Chef (he only makes pies…beaver pies) and the creepy, dementor-like Barrister, with her otherworldly powers of persuasion. This quartet of unqualified and unusual sailors are a small sample of the incredible puppets in The Hunting of the Snark. The chubby-cheeked Chef, for example, has a big bag of flour for a body, with a wooden spoon and spatula for arms, whereas the haughty and uncanny Barrister’s body hangs like an old hanky, gliding unnervingly across the stage. The show’s puppets come in all shapes, sizes, and types: appearing out of the suitcase set are a variety of characters, from the sweet handpuppet love birds with their stringy facial features, to the fluorescent Bandersnatch who is not everything he seems… The performers expertly control each creature, imbuing them with eccentricities that make them both wonderfully odd and extremely engaging.
For a production full of the frivolously absurd, the set, props and puppets are surprisingly stunning, a soberly beautiful backdrop that makes the ridiculous happenings all the funnier. An early example of this is the performers transforming into the North Wind by putting beautiful swirling clouds over their heads; their vacant dreamy faces poke out of these massive cloud hats whilst their bodies engage in a deadpan dance. Rather than being relentlessly quirky, the talented cast explore different types of humour, from an extraordinary rap battle to improvisation and audience interaction. The Hunting of the Snark is accomplished storytelling from an exciting new company: surprisingly beautiful, quite surreal, and very silly.
Children’s Theatre Reviews exists to help plug the gap in criticism and writing about theatre for young audiences. It is run entirely voluntarily, and needs support to continue covering and supporting the sector. For more information and to help give children’s theatre the voice it deserves, please visit our Patreon page.