Reviewed by Flossie Waite
A Théâtre de la Guimbarde production
At Polka Theatre until 11th June
For ages 18 months – 5 years
The stage is almost empty – just a couple of pillows and duvets and a table, surely not enough to play hide and seek with. But in this inventive production, finding multiple ways to reimagine the limited items and the ways they can provide concealment is all part of the fun. The format of the game is similarly malleable; the traditional rules we would recognise (with one person counting to ten while the other hides) don’t occur until very late into the production. Over the course of this extensive hide and seek we’re witness to the full-length play session of two siblings, which sneakily takes place after they’re meant to be asleep. The threat of their parents catching them looms, and the play explores the special sibling bond formed by partners in crime. The pair always have their ears peeled for the sudden sound of footsteps, which force them to pause their play and fling themselves back into bed. Hide and seek is always exciting, but this production captures the additional thrill and drama of staying up after bedtime.
Hide-and-Seek (Cache-Cache) was developed as part of the Small size Wide Eyes project (Small size is the European Network for the diffusion of performing arts aimed at early childhood). Artists from 15 countries created an original piece of theatre using the idea of children’s wide eyes (“the amazement, the openness towards what’s new, the hunger for knowledge”) as a starting point. Under the Rainbow, which played at Polka in May, was the UK offering, and this piece from Belgian company Théâtre de la Guimbarde is an opportunity to see what another participant nation produced.
The play is performed in French, English and Spanish, though initially language is used sparingly, mainly restricted to the two siblings whispering each other’s names. Their play starts off small and cautious, but as they manage to evade their parents’ ire, it gets more and more ambitious. As their games grow bolder, their words dramatically increase, until the girl is doing acrobatics that see her almost touch the ceiling, and they begin to exchange a steady stream of conversation. With time, the siblings’ play also seems to grow and develop, from something most akin to peekaboo, to more sophisticated rounds of hide and seek.
Though stylised and theatrical, Hide and Seek vividly portrays immediately recognisable and relatable childhood experiences by conveying the cheeky pleasure of this timeless game. After 45 minutes of watching other people engage in lively play, the audience are a little restless to get involved themselves!
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