Is three-to-five years old too young for opera? Not really. Small children sing their world all the time, chant their feelings freely. As for puppetry, it’s made for them: who has not given life and story to a teddybear? And as I perched happily at the back of the tiny theatre, the return of this little gem diected by Peter Glanville, found spread before me an attentive, delightedly murmuring new generation, none of them I reckon over seven.

The story, sung-through by trained singers with puppetry skills – Lowri James ,Sani Mulliaumaseali’i and Natalie Raybould – is a simple one, but with enough emotional gravity to suit the operatic form. Marie – a recognizable doll, a bit Red-riding-hood in her garb – is sailing with her uncle Edward, happily singing a nursery sea- ballad “If I trust in you, will you trust in me?” . They are shipwrecked (grand lighting effects on the little stage) and separated, calling anxiously to one another. You sense the children’s worry in the audience. But Marie meets a creature, a sort of crazy flop-eared raggedy rabbit thing with wings and hooves, the Skitterbang (Sue Dacre designed him).

Marie accepts his hospitality after intial caution – “Is it wrong to trust a monster with a silly smile? Shelter in his cosy home for just a little while?” and teaches him the uncle’s song from a shipwrecked gramophone. But when the uncle finds her, in true colonial style (he has after all an Edwardian moustache) he throws things at the “monster” to chase it away. Marie must persuade him it is a friend…
Well, I knew they’d all be singing the chorus about trust in the end, but dammit, what with the small children cooing and laughing below, your eyes prickle..
box office 020 7226 1787 Little Angel to 15 June
POLKA theatre 020 8543 4888 15 June – 16 aug

Rating: four   4 Meece Rating


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