Sarah Argent’s My Brother, My Sister and Me at the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon should be compulsory viewing for all theatre-makers who create theatre for young people. It is a beautifully observed two-hander about the relationship between young siblings. It is well acted, with exquisite lighting and an impressive set. It is clear that lots of research and work has gone into creating this memorable piece of theatre and it’s obvious that the people behind it realise that theatre for under-fives is just as important as theatre for grown-ups. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the makers of the show might argue that theatre for little, curious minds is, in fact, the most important theatre of all.
The play explores the dynamics of the sibling relationship. The brother (Craig Gazey) and sister (Leona Allen) are forced to share a bedroom when a new baby arrives in the family and the sister’s bedroom becomes the nursery. Neither are happy about their new situation and over the course of the play a range of emotions and behaviours are displayed by the siblings as they get used to sleeping in the same room as each other.
The writer understands young children perfectly. She has a writer’s good ear and a director’s good judgement – which is handy as Argent is both the writer and director of this 40-minute show. The witty script has a Pinter-esque sparseness allowing for the story to develop visually as well. Whilst playing Hide and Seek with his sister, the brother declares, with all the seriousness that only a young child can truly muster, “Actually, the best place to hide is Belgium” and then he promptly turns and exits. Hilarious.
It’s a playful and funny play. My 13-month-old daughter laughed like a drain as the brother re-arranged his sister’s collection of hats on her bed whilst repeating the word ‘hat’ each time he placed one down. It is this close observation of young children that is so impressive – it is such truthful theatre. When discussing their new baby sibling, the sister says she wanted a girl, the brother a boy but ‘I won because it was a boy’ declares the brother triumphantly.
There is delight to be found in the imaginative play between brother and sister. During a game of make-believe about a pirate and a shark, the brother wearing a shark backpack skulks the waters (he writhes on the carpet beneath his sister’s bed) before rising up and attacks the brave pirate. The sister breaks character and the lighting changes: ‘You bit me really hard” she cries. “A shark would bite you really hard” argues her brother. It seems entirely logical. Gazey and Allen are compellingly brilliant as these arguing, loving, impulsive, thoughtful, energetic bundles of contradictions. The story is enhanced by the music of composer Greg Hall and the delightful Gecko song the siblings’ sing is accompanied by a joyful choreography.
Designer Katie Lias has created a lovely, highly detailed set of the children’s bedroom. The same carpet covers both the stage and the sitting area (auditorium seems far too grand a word for the intimate space of the Adventure theatre) and has the effect of extending the acting space beyond the stage. Sitting on the floor of the theatre we are sitting on the floor of the siblings’ bedroom.
Aaron J Dootson’s lighting is nuanced and often adds a magical element to the story. When the brother shares his secret stash of sweets with his sister, a beam of light shines out from his small box. And during the siblings’ make-believe pirate game, Dootson’s dramatic lighting transports us to the dangerous seas.
These are just two moments but the play is packed full of many delightful lighting elements. It is the most impressive lighting of a children’s theatre show that I have ever seen. I absolutely loved this show. If you have a child under five or perhaps if you just have an interest in child psychology, I highly recommend you see this charming, truthful show before it ends in February 2018.
Review by Laura-Jane Foley
With a new baby in the family, a little sister has to move in with her big brother. This playful new show from the creators of Shake Rattle and Roll and Grandad, Me… and Teddy Too! is based on Sarah Argent’s conversations with young children about their own sibling relationships.
Cast and Creatives
Sarah Argent Writer and Director
Katie Lias Designer
Aaron J. Dootson Lighting Designer
Greg Hall Composer
A Polka Theatre Production
My Brother, My Sister and Me
Wed 18 Oct – Sun 11 Feb. For ages 2 -5
Written and directed by Sarah Argent
Designed by Katie Lias
Lighting Design by Aaron Dootson