Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Petrushka - Little Angel Theatre, London

Writer: John Agard
Directed by Steve Tiplady & Lyndie Wright
Reviewer: Honour Bayes

Petrushka is a puppet with no strings whose tale of daring do has been given a vibrant make-over at The Little Angel Theatre. With a delicate piano score by Stravinsky and sweetly rhyming language by John Agard the quality of this work is plain to see as are the charming performances from the undoubtedly talented Josh Darcy, Ronnie Le Drew, Mandy Travis, Rebekah Wild. These friendly performers manipulate their charges with a skill that impresses young and old and aren’t that bad at acting themselves either.

We follow Petrushka as he escapes from his evil puppet master who has been tormenting him with an unrequited love and heads out to create a better story for himself across Europe. Along his way he meets Stravinsky, who obligingly writes him a ballet, the music of which forms the haunting score which plays throughout this piece.

A long nosed jester, Petrushka is a Russian descendent of Punch and seems to have inherited many of his mischievous characteristics; this journey is a playfully funny one even though it ends in a more serious and poignant tone. Both when he has strings and when he is free, our puppeteers imbue Petrushka with a tangible sense of self and you are swept away in his story completely.

Alongside the emotive performances the puppets in this production are beautifully crafted with the whole thing feeling like a stunningly petit Italian renaissance show. From the ballet dancer who enthrals Petrushka to her muscle bound beaux each has their own temperament and style and the attention to detail is wonderful. My favourite were the steady worker puppets who float around tidying up after the others as they watch the mayhem unfold around them, but I’m sure you will have your own special choice.

At point’s surreal ballet and at others straightforward narration it is sometimes hard to follow the story exactly but if you are prepared to sit back and delight in the sweetness of this Russian folk puppetry then it is easy not to care. As with all the shows I have seen at Little Angel, this piece works on both a child and adult level, and with all ages in the audience giggling with glee, this definitely seems to be a show that the whole family will love this Christmas.
Runs until 31st Jan 2010
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