As a result of the past year of ongoing social disruption, my 8-year-old twins now readily grasp the difference between live in-person theatre, live-via-Zoom theatre, and asynchronous digital entertainment (that may or may not remind them of live theatrical performances). Children’s theatre – perhaps because it already embraces a level of audience participation – has been a source of great innovation via the digital platforms we’ve been forced to adopt as part of the continuing pandemic. Celebrating its 60th anniversary, the Little Angel Theatre has found myriad ways to innovate across platforms whilst its live venue is currently off-limits.
With direct-to-audience story-telling at its heart, Roberta Livingston hosts the puppet-driven story of siblings Ruby and Floyd as they embark on an adventure that magically unfolds from her suitcase set. Ellie Mills’ design is strong and the direction by Samantha Lane is solid. My children noted Dominic Sales’ music as amongst their favourite elements. With live (in-person) performances unavailable for at least another month, there is gratification to be found in gathering as a family to consume something as it happens that will be determined by the collective will of the audience present. Although, I couldn’t help but feel the tug of longing to see this production in the same room as its players and patrons.
The performance is recommended for audiences 5 to 11, presumably because there is an element of reading the two choices for the next stage of the adventure which are conveyed by a polling app on screen (something over which my Y4 twins had great fun arguing!). However, the delivery and central content is probably better geared towards an audience of 3 to 8 with an adult helping with the interactive elements. My children mused whether younger siblings of their friends might be frightened by certain aspects of the story but then reasoned: if the audience is younger, surely the choices will be tamer too?
Unlike other Zoom-based children’s theatrical productions, this one doesn’t feature the audience in vision (other than if you choose gallery view for ambience), nor does it use virtual backgrounds. It is in many respects more rooted in the world of (very well-produced) red-button children’s television rather than one of technology or ‘gamification’ – which is why it feels it belongs more to the pre-school genre of In the Night Garden than ‘story-mode’ that 8 to 11-year-olds would know from other ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ type entertainment.
Nonetheless, the kids found it funny and engaging and it provoked plenty of cheerful chatter for much of the afternoon. As ever, Little Angel’s puppets are world-class and any phase of lockdown shouldn’t get in the way of enjoying the company’s exquisite craft and creativity.
Review by Mary Beer
Floyd and his sister Ruby creep into the dark, shadowy valley behind their house… a valley full of all kinds of spooky, creepy creatures and the scariest of them all, the Bugaboo! Join Floyd and Ruby at every step of their journey, as you decide which path they take and what monsters they meet.
Where the Bugaboo Lives is an interactive experience, delivered via Zoom, where you will be greeted by one of our talented performers, watch a recorded version of the show, and take part in activities.
Directed by Samantha Lane
Music composed by Dominic Sales
Designed by Ellie Mills
Associate Designers Jessica Shead and Ruby Saide
Lighting designed by Sherry Coenen
Performed by Roberta Livingston / Jessica Manu
Where the Bugaboo Lives
A Little Angel Theatre production
Based on the book by Sean Taylor and Neal Layton
Running from 14 March – 2 May
For ages 5 – 11