30 November – 22 December 2017
Directed by Maria Litvinova
Composed/lyrics by Darren Clark
Devised by Paper Balloon
In this alternative family Christmas show, a little girl called Liza has gone missing after eencountering a Winter Sprite, an impish elf-like creature. We join some ‘Spriteologists’ in an adventure to untangle the mystery of her disappearance and find out more about the mischievous fairies.
I don’t exactly fit into the usual demographic for children’s theatre, and didn’t particularly feel qualified to write this review. Fortunately I know some experts, and this review has been written with the insightful help of Sebastian (aged 7), and Ruben (age 10), who insisted on a pseudonym to retain his professional detachment. Which was adorable.
The play is a creative and engaging blend of music, puppetry, storytelling and performance. It’s been extraordinarily designed and put together, with the music providing a wonderful and quirky tone to the performance. The impressively talented Joseph Hardy, who performs as one of the Spriteologists, plays about 5 different instruments, and with a loop-pedal scores the entire performance. Joining him were Alex Kanefsky (also the artistic director of Paper Balloons) and Dorie Kinnear, who guide us through the performance with energy and theatricality.
“The actors made it very playful,” says Ruben knowledgeably. “I liked it when they made it up on the spot,” he adds, referring to one song where the cast create an improvised puppet show and song using items provided by the audience.
“My favourite thing was the puppets in the background,” Sebastian says, eliciting violent head-nodding agreement from Ruben. The shadow puppetry throughout the show was masterful. One moment in particular, when the Spriteologists explore the inside of Liza’s head, was particularly incredible to watch. During that moment, Sebastian leaned over to me wide-eyed and in an awed whisper said, “She’s dreaming”.
I had the great pleasure of watching his imaginative landscape expand in that moment, and I’m not sure a piece of children’s theatre can do better than that.
Their top five words to describe the show were “imaginative, original, intriguing, exciting, and funny”, and I’m not sure I can do better than those either.
It’s a clever and enjoyable show, and if our experience was anything to go by, definitely one worth dragging the adults to.
The boys unanimously awarded the show: