The third and final installment of my whirlwind of children’s theatre blogging is upon us! And what a way to end the festival. Unfortunately for Laika (who will absolutely never read this blog, so won’t care) I’m taking my Festival Award For Best In Baboró off Narrow, and giving it to the French sensation that is Bob Théâtre. Having seen their show before in a 2016 festival in Birmingham, I initially figured it would be uncouth of me to give my Best In Show to them. I wanted to be surprised, goddamit. But I wasn’t, because – as fabulous as the Branar’s and the Black Beauty’s and the Laika’s of the world are – Bob Théâtre’s Dracula story told with light-bulbs and a table cloth is second only to Squidboy as my favourite show of all time.
But before we get to the immaculate and incomparable feast that is Nosferatu, we’ll start with Cleite by Brú Theatre (who are also, incidentally, the other company chosen on the Pathways to Production development programme)….
CLEITE (Feather) – Brú Theatre (Ire)
The Gist… A mostly non-verbal show where an old Irish woman welcomes you into an old-timey thatched cottage (for real – the show is site-specific), as she tends to her chores and waits for news of an absent husband…
Go if… You want to see a performance using mask techniques, and hardly any language (only Irish, when it does appear), but perfectly crafted. This is humorous, effective, and very touching storytelling where little is said, but a whole world is conveyed.
Avoid if… You don’t like sitting in small spaces with turf fires. You emerge from the cottage smoked as a kipper.
Go if… You love Sean nós. Performer Caitlín Ní Chualáin is a treat to listen to.
Avoid if… You’re someone who needs stories to be high-octane and full of fuss and noise.
Go if… You’re someone who needs stories to be high-octane and full of fuss and noise. You could learn something from this. The show slows you down to it’s own time frame, and the audience is rewarded for waiting. One of its gifts it that the show transports you into a time of patience, presence and deep feeling.
Best moment… An cleite, an ceol agus an ciúnas. (The feather, the music, and the quiet)
BLACK BEAUTY – Red Bridge Arts & Traverse Theatre (Scotland)
The Gist… Two brothers called Andy – who are also the front and rear end of a Panto Horse – are waiting in their horse box for their next professional gig. As they wait, they tell each other the story of Black Beauty.
Disclaimer … I didn’t get to see the end of this show, as it started a little late, which meant I had to leave five minutes early in order to catch Nosferatu.
Go if… You like high-production value, visually magical children’s shows.
Avoid if… You don’t like panto. Not that this is a panto, per se, but it can be panto-esque in it’s size and expression
Go if… You like whimsy, physical comedy and horses.
Avoid if… You are expecting to be in and out of the theatre in the standard 60 minutes. This is the first children’s show I’ve ever been to that has an interval (Pantos aside, which – now that I’m typing it – makes sense). Intervals create havoc with little people, but then again, long shows create havoc with little bladders. And the show is great, and doesn’t feel overly long. Had it not been for Nosferatu I would have happily stayed to see as much as they’d give me.
Go if… You want to see some truly clever examples of horse mimicry. The two actors (Paul Curley is one, trying to find out the name of the other!) used old boots and old handbags to great affect in conjuring the equine.
Go if… You enjoy clever design and light-touch, well-executed audience interaction.
Best moment… Black Beauty’s dash through the forest, the first time that Hamish appears, and the delightfully inventive horse box.
NOSFERATU – Bob Théâtre (France)
The Gist… A vampire story told by two fantastically ghoulish Frenchmen, a table, loads of lights, and huge imagination.
Go if… You like a spook. This is good-old-fashioned-chills-down-your-spine spook stuff, the sort of stuff I used to seek out in R. L. Stine and Are You Afraid of the Dark? The sort of stuff we wish Halloween was. Still-safe, satisfying, scary magic.
Go if… You like to laugh / are a human. Nosferatu is so creative and so funny that it will delight adults as much as kids. The children in the audience of our show on Friday came as close to giving a standing ovation as any young audience I’ve ever seen. I think they would have given one, had they known what a standing ovations was. They were practically leaping out of their seats in praise of the two Bobs.
Go if… You hate the idea of ‘puppetry’ or ‘puppet theatre’, because this show will prove that all of your misconceptions are just those. If you do not like Nosferatu, you are empirically wrong.
Best moment… The opening with the bones. The slow unscrewing of the lights. The first appearance of Dracula. The ship. The rats leaving the ship. The picture of Elena. Nurse Wilkommen. But more than anything else – THE CARPATHIAN TABLECLOTH.