I didn’t realised this before but the Udderbelly isn’t just for big kids, it also caters for the little ones. Although it is clearly decked out as an adult’s playground, you have all the fun of the fair on its doorstep. The Udderbelly also acts as a giant play pen so the little monsters can run amok without too much need for the reins.
For those of you who don’t know, ‘The King Of Tiny Things’ is a children’s book written by award winning author Jeanne Willis. The story unfolds as two sisters camp out in the garden, their night time adventure takes a magical turn when they meet a mystical winged creature. Taking them on a moonlit walk, the sisters meet an array of animated critters teaching them about the diversity on their doorstep. The director fell in love with the book after reading it to her children, realising the story through circus skills, puppetry and song.
The set was unmistakable in its simplicity; a tent, a garden shed, a washing line and a few tree stumps. We’re introduced to the two main characters through song and a bit of physical theatre asking the audience to join in and sing ‘follow me’. Disappearing into the tent for their little slumber party, the night time creepy crawlies appear. The perfect use of shadow puppets mimic the behaviour of the insects, one by one, until an unfamiliar shadow appears.
Possibly the most enchanting of all the characters, the ‘King’ is a little sprite-like puppet with a face that gently glows with a night light quality. Mechanised by hand, there are no hidden wires just big burly adults handling the puppet but this doesn’t get in the way of its majesty. In fact, the puppet certainly captures your attention. The only shame is the fact the soundtrack, giving voice to the puppet, gets a little lost. All the actors are deserving of microphones as the musical backing does little to keep the momentum without their ability to perform loudly.
Details about the show promised juggling slugs, stilt-walking daddy-long-legs and contortionist worms. For a three year old I am sure this proffered a fit of giggles and a squeal of delight at every turn. When it came to the acrobatic bats half way through, I was certainly a game audience member. Some of the costumes and props were quite eye-catching, glowing juggling balls for instance, morphed in to brilliant fire flies. It is quirks like these that bring the show to life.
Overall, if you are a fan of the book, this offers a delightful angle for your young ones to explore. The show is a testament to the power of imagination and how important it is for adults to be as captivated by literature as their children. There were certain stunts that deserved more of an applause than the audience gave but I think the actors were warming to their roles. Turn it up a notch and you’ve got a enchanting show for the whole family to enjoy.
Review by Stephanie Caiger-Watson
Metta Theatre presents THE KING OF TINY THINGS
Adapted by Poppy Burton-Morgan
From the book by Jeanne Willis and Gwen Millward
Directed by: Poppy Burton-Morgan
Designed by: William Reynolds, Puppets designed by: Yvonne Stone, Music by Jon Nicholls
Metta Theatre today announces the forthcoming 10 venue tour for The King of Tiny Things, as part of the company’s 10th anniversary year – Metta10, adapted for the stage by Poppy Burton Morgan from the book by Jeanne Willis and Gwen Millward. Burton Morgan’s production opens at the Udderbelly Festival at Southbank Centre on 13 July, ahead of a tour through until November to Camp Bestival, Dorset; National Play Day Festival, Hull; Salford; Malvern; Stockton-on-Tees; Leeds; Doncaster, and Bristol.
One magical midsummer’s night two sisters huddle together, fearful of what the darkness holds, when a mysterious winged creature appears and leads them on a moonlit adventure. Together they rescue juggling slugs, contortionist worms, and a trio of acrobatic baby bats. But while the girls are busy being brave they overlook their winged friend, the King of Tiny Things, who needs their help most of all. Can they save him in time…
Age guidance: 3 years +
Listings details The King of Tiny Things
Udderbelly Festival at Southbank Centre, London
Sat 11 and Sun 12 July 12pm, Mon 13 July 4:15pm
Box Office: 0844 875073
Camp Bestival, Dorset
Sat 1 August
Box Office: 0844 888 4410
National Playday Festival, Hull
Wed 5 August 2pm and 4:30pm
The Lowry, Salford
Thurs 6 August 2pm and 4:30pm
Box Office: 0843 208 6000
Malvern Theatres, Worcestershire
Sat 10 October
Box Office: 01684 892277
ARC Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees
Sat 17 October
Box Office: 01642 525199
Greenwich Theatre, London
Mon 26 October
Box Office: 020 8858 7755
Leeds Carriageworks, Leeds
Tues 27 October
Box Office: 0113 224 3801
Cast Theatre, Doncaster
Wed 28 October
Box Office: 01302 303959
Bristol Circus Festival
Thurs 29 October – Sun 1 November
Booking details tbc
Monday 13th July 2015