What’s an Owlabear? It’s as cute as it sounds. It’s a cuddly beast: half owl and half bear, which has a round face, big flappy wings and a cotton white coat for a body. It lives in Antarctica with penguins, fishes, seals and many more wild creatures, which can all be witnessed in this magnificent and mesmerising children’s show.
Parents will find Little Bulb Theatre Company’s Antarctica just as enjoyable. It’s currently showing at the Battersea Arts Centre following last year’s success of their production at the Old Vic in Bristol, and their 5 star reviewed opera and cabaret concoction Orpheus this year. However, this show is far more small-scale in terms of time, stage and audience.
In this show everyone in the audience is a brave explorer travelling to the South Pole and as we leave Battersea, we have Sir Peregrine Falcon (Alex Scott) guiding us through the snowy storm with wannabe ballet dancers Clare Beresford and Dominic Conway throwing and sprinkling snow (or confetti) at him, as much as they can!
Sir Peregrine Falcon presents himself as an early 1900s explorer with a vintage camera and a smooth accent as cool as David Attenborough. He plays the lead role in the show and often converses with the children and others in the audience, to get them involved. He also sings songs with a cheeky-grin along with Beresford and Conway who play the xylophone in the background. Children are grouped into map readers, chefs and all sorts and cook up a sea slime sandwich for our beardy explorer – funnily no one, not even the children, were put off by the slime.
The fluffy Owlabear pops his head out of a translucent curtain, but very sheepishly with sparkly and lullaby-like music to captivate the audience. Sir Peregrine Falcon teaches the audience to whisper, ‘Hello Owlabear’ when the Owlabear waves and hops on one leg.
Light and image projections designed by Mitch Hargreaves play a big part in providing animation for the show. These projections make it easier for the actors to create scenes without moving too many stage props around, allowing the children to use their imagination with the cast’s use of minimal visual objects.
On Sir Peregrine Falcon’s search for the elusive Owlabear there are many other wild animals that he stumbles upon all playfully presented by our animated pair Conway and Beresford. They have their first meet up as single penguins that soon have a penguin kiss and later produce a baby penguin which Bereford feeds through her own mouth; she has to cough up food to feed her little one which means hearing some unattractive noises, just like you’d see on the TV programme Animal Kingdom – nevertheless its safe for the children’s ears and won’t give them nightmares.
Then as typical human couples are, they also play as loud seals and bark at each other with their stomachs to the ground and flip their bodies just like massive seals would. And they move model seagulls around and squawk as they go down steep mountains lavishly showed by Conway who wears a nest crown and silk sheet to represent the icy terrain.
There’s an adorable under-the-water scene where the lights go down and bubbles are released as Sir Peregrine Falcon swims with glowing fish, a huge whale and puffy illuminating jellyfish, tantalising the keen eyes of both children and adults. There is also the Aurora Borealis – which is actually a brightly lit disco ball, which was brought to the audience’s attention by a 5-year-old child.
Nonetheless, Antarctica is a truly imaginative and fun show for children. It’s a bottle filled with joy and creativity for families.
Review by Mary Nguyen
ANTARCTICA by Little Bulb Theatre – co-produced by Bristol Old Vic and Farnham Maltings.
2nd December 2014 to 4th January 2015
Age Recommendation 2 – 6 years
Only the bravest of explorers have been to the South Pole: an enchanting world of snow, ice and some of the most wondrous creatures on Earth. Will you be one of them?
Join the Explorers’ Club and discover slippy-slidey penguins, glamorous sea lions and pesky birds as award-winning Little Bulb (CBeebies A Christmas Carol) whisk you away on an unforgettable journey with songs, puppets and plenty of snowy surprises. With maps to read and animals to spot, lively adventurers are encouraged to take part in the story.
Cast and Creative
Created and devised by Little Bulb Theatre
Director – Alex Scott
Performers – Clare Beresford, Dominic Conway and Alex Scott
Designer – Verity Sadler
Lighting Designer – Tim Streader
Light and image projections – Mitch Hargreaves
Mask Maker (Owlabear) – Cheryl Brown
Creative Collaborator & Stage Manager – Javan Hughes
Production manager (Battersea Arts Centre) – Frances Dawes
Producer (little Bulb Theatre) – Fiona Baxter
Producer (Battersea Arts Centre) – Sophie Bradey
Battersea Arts Centre, Lavender Hill, London SW11 5TN
2nd December 2014 to 4th January 2015
10:30am & 1:30pm/11am & 2:30pm
Price: £14, £9 Children & Concs
Box Office: 020 7223 2223
Tuesday 9th December 2014