Go Noah Go!

Reviewed by Flossie Waite
A Little Angel Theatre production
Running until 4th February 2018
For ages 5-10

Like a certain red-suited someone, Christmas is my busiest time of the year. For a few glorious weeks from mid-November onwards, I finally get my wish: venues, audiences and the mainstream media start paying attention to theatre for young audiences in a way that just doesn’t happen for the other 10 and a half months, so my diary is packed. Already, 50% of the shows I’ve seen have included a flurry of fake snow, so in a sea of festive-themed productions, it’s surprising to encounter a flood. But if this is the time of year children are most likely to go to the theatre, Little Angel are determined to make sure they see something good, even if that means the weather’s a washout rather than a whiteout, and they look to Genesis rather than the nativity.

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Of course, the story of Noah’s Ark isn’t unique to the Bible. A similar tale appears in the Quran, and there are flood myths from many other cultures dating all the way back to 1600 BC. Go Noah Go! is poet and playwright John Agard’s Caribbean adaptation, told by Duane Gooden and Amanda Wright using puppetry, participation, and beautifully-performed acapella music. Together, they take on a menagerie of characters, from sentient weather to Brummy frog.

In this version, it’s not only the animals that come in pairs. Humanity’s punishment is wrought by Mother God and Father God; Mrs Noah has just as big a role to play as her husband; and the couple no longer have three sons but a son and a daughter. Not only is there gender parity, but the female characters now have agency, impact and, unlike the Old Testament account, names. Perhaps part of what makes Noah and his family worth saving is their non-patriarchal, non-hierarchical existence – sitting atop the boat the whole family have worked hard to build, they decide that ‘Noah’s Ark’ isn’t the right name: “Let’s call it ‘Our Ark’”.

They may have created the ark, but it’s the audience who make it float: silky blue material unravels from its side to the children in the front row, who make gentle waves that lift the boat and set it rocking across the water. In fact, with the inclement weather comes increased audience participation: it’s the audience’s chants that motivate Noah’s family as they assemble the impressive vessel, and later they help to deliver the passengers on board by carefully passing the carved wooden animals across the auditorium. It isn’t until all this interaction that the play truly comes alive; the energy and spirit seen on stage is felt throughout the theatre as it becomes clear that ‘Our Ark’ extends beyond the four-person family: it belongs to everyone.

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.

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