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There’s a Rang-Tan in my Bedroom & Other Stories | Review

The Little Angel Theatre are undeniably puppet geniuses. There is always a delight in observing the sheer cleverness of their production design and the show-stealing puppets of all types. The lighting and set design to create different worlds of The Jaguar’s jungle or The Turtle’s ocean and ultimately the palm forest that forced the Rang-Tan into the girl’s bedroom was magnificent and affecting. Perhaps in some cases a little too affecting for the younger children.

There's A Rang-Tan In My Bedroom & Other Stories. Photo by Ellie Kurttz.
There’s A Rang-Tan In My Bedroom & Other Stories. Photo by Ellie Kurttz.

Here lies the rub: children aged 5 to 11 whose parents are going to take them to this show at an Islington institution, are not likely to be unaware of the global threats of deforestation and plastic pollution proliferation. So creating two new vignettes (that show off some great puppets and stunning devices – like The Turtle in a bathtub created by bubble wrap, to a very impressive effect), was done to make the play more substantial. Children’s theatre often employes the Rule of Three; are here we meet similar creatures in similar predicaments across a range of settings. It does enable the audience not only to meet more puppets but also showcases Little Angel’s genius stagecraft, including stunning shadow puppetry. But, I think the added characters in peril were the wrong choice for this story and its audience. Most children who would want to see this performance are familiar with the story from the viral video and what they want is to see the Rang-Tan protected and be part of that. The dramatic reversal occurs when the girl changes tone and wants to learn about the Rang-Tan’s plight. What he’s been through is distressing and sad for kids… for everyone; as such a good two-thirds of the plot doesn’t need to give the same grim performance or the greedy industrial meat/waste/palm oil corporations ruining the environment (regardless of how stunning the lighting and puppetry is) to make the point. In fact, I think it slightly dilutes the message and makes it so overwhelming as kiddie agit-prop that children will defend their tiny minds by adopting a kind of junior ‘oh-dearism’ (to borrow a phrase from Adam Curtis).

I wish the adaptation had been more faithful to the book produced with Greenpeace which gives really practical tips on how to take action, like writing to chocolate companies about their ingredients. I would have liked The (puppet) Girl to have had her consciousness awoken by one creature (okay, maybe max two creatures) and then she takes action and models to the young audience what they can do so that they feel powerful and not despondent. However, with lovely staging, the cast set out to become interactive in the last section of the show changing the instructions in a way that can be confusing for kids – when are they expected to participate and when are they supposed to be quiet?

The cast wanted the kids’ ideas – but seeing as the first three scenes emphasised despair and suffering and ‘I don’t know what to do’ – unsurprisingly the primary school-aged (and younger) children didn’t have a raft of particularly strong proposals. This bugged me. These are thorny complicated issues tied up in capitalism and political conditions in both the developed and developing world that include what impoverished people sometimes must do to survive and how corporations and their shareholders profit from it. It’s charming to engage kids in being part of the solution, but teaching them how various factors are related and motivating them with examples of how they might succeed in some small way, feels it would be more effective to the cause and make for a jollier theatrical experience.

3 Star Review

Imagine waking up to find a turtle bathing in your bathtub, an orangutan bouncing on your bed and a jaguar creeping through your kitchen! But how did they all get here? And why on earth are they all so far from home?

Join us for a magical mix of puppetry and music as we discover more about our animal friends and what we can do to help – because no one is too small to make a difference.

Inspired by the Greenpeace campaign films There’s a Rang-Tan in My Bedroom and There’s a Monster in My Kitchen written by James Sellick, and featuring a voiceover by Emma Thompson.

Credits:
Written by James Sellick
Directed by Maia Kirkman-Richards
Set and costumes designed by Kate Bunce
Lighting designed by Sherry Coenen
Puppets designed by Maia Kirkman-Richards
Music composed and sound designed by Dominic Sales
Creative Producer Miranda Pitcher
Performed by Ajjaz Awad & Aya Nakamura
Stage managed by Verity Clayton
Rang-Tan voiceover by Emma Thompson
Jag-Wah voiceover by Doc Brown
Turtle voiceover by Rag’n’Bone Man
Supporting Greenpeace and Meat Free Monday.
With thanks to Mother.

There’s a Rang-Tan in my Bedroom & Other Stories
A Little Angel Theatre production
10 September – 7 November 2021
https://littleangeltheatre.com/

Author

  • Mary Beer

    Mary graduated with a cum laude degree in Theatre from Columbia University’s Barnard College in New York City. In addition to directing and stage managing several productions off-Broadway, Mary was awarded the Helen Prince Memorial Prize in Dramatic Composition for her play Subway Fare whilst in New York. Relocating to London, Mary has worked in the creative sector, mostly in television broadcast and production, since 1998. Her creative and strategic abilities in TV promotion, marketing and design have been recognised with over 20 industry awards including several Global Promax Golds. She is a founder member of multiple creative industry and arts organisations and has frequently served as an advisor to the Edinburgh International TV Festival.

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