Such has been the number of delays and cancellations on the railways in 2018 that knitting has had a small increase in popularity: it’s something to do whilst waiting to get to where one is going. I would imagine that not every piece of clothing knitted by hand ends up perfect, or the right size for the intended recipient. One such jumper is LongSleeves (Richard Hay) – KnitMas: A Winter Yarn is a children’s show, just go with it – who hasn’t had much company since he was a Christmas present not fit for purpose. But this December, Bingle Duck (Christina Forrest) waddles along.
There’s a lot packed into this one-act performance, and what is a very straightforward plotline (how can LongSleeves get the last of several Christmas trees decorated?) has much character development. There’s educational value, too, in a show that essentially, through trial and error, demonstrates that there is much to be gained from co-operation and teamwork. LongSleeves has acquired a walking stick, presumably also discarded as the jumper himself once was, and it gradually becomes clear that it is not something wholly necessary for LongSleeves’ mobility. This didn’t stop a child at the performance I attended concluding that LongSleeves is “an old man”.
There were varying levels of perception amongst members of the target audience, in a show that has about as much spoken dialogue in the first twenty minutes or so as an episode of the television sitcom ‘Mr Bean’ does. A later scene involving a cardboard pop-up story had the children (over)crowding around the intricately detailed display. Cue cries of ‘Sit down!’ from other children further back: my own view was completely obscured for the most part, which didn’t matter, given the audio description. Perhaps the use of projections would have been more inclusive.
Spatial awareness elsewhere in the show, however, was done well, and was interesting to observe: in one scene, for instance, LongSleeves repeatedly has a bauble taken from him from behind by Bingle Duck, who seconds later drops it back over his head. As his companion is not in his direct line of sight, he must quickly acquire the ability to understand what is really going on. Not difficult when there are perhaps a dozen children shouting, as though this were a panto, “It’s behind you!” but the point is performed quite brilliantly.
A show like this is, by and large, what a seasonal children’s show ought to be like – with raucous and engaged reactions from the younger ones, without the requirement for anyone to have to tell them to pay attention, because that is precisely what they are already doing. There was little need to ask for quiet either – if anything, this production is enhanced by calls and heckles. The choreography was well co-ordinated, with movements seemingly effortless when required, and seemingly strenuous when the narrative called for it. Overall, an eager and enthusiastic show.
Review by Chris Omaweng
LongSleeves is a jumper. His jumpery arms aren’t the right size and they aren’t the same length. One Christmas he was unwrapped, thrown aside and forgotten and he’s been alone ever since. Every Christmas he decorates a tree in the forest of Odds and Bods but this year, maybe he won’t have to do it alone…
Social media: @SharkLegsCo | #KNITmasshow | @GreenwichTheatr
Created by Kezia Cole and Richard Hay
Set Designed by Caitlin Abbott
LongSleeves – Richard Hay
Bingle Duck – Christina Forrest
Crooms Hill, London SE10 8ES
8 – 30 December 2018
Running Time: 50 mins plus 25 min pre-show workshop | Suitable for ages 4+