Sleeping Beauty and the Beast, Battersea Arts Centre

Review: Sleeping Beauty and the Beast, Battersea Arts Centre - Everything  Theatre

by Romy Foster

It’s a wonder that Sleeping Trees have managed to put on a show for kids. Their adult productions are cheeky, provocative, silly and inappropriate but in Sleeping Beauty and the Beast they bring the fun for kids and adults alike in this partially improvised twist on two children’s classics.

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The Magician’s Elephant, Royal Shakespeare Company

Vibrant, joyous and fun' - The Magician's Elephant at RSC reviewed - Sarah  Probert - Birmingham Live

by Michaela Clement-Hayes

Everyone deserves a happy ending, and as we head towards the festive season, messages of hope and forgiveness start to provide us with a real sense of magic. This is perhaps what the RSC is tying to do with its winter production of The Magician’s Elephant, based on Kate DiCamillo’s book. A young orphan is told by a fortune teller that he will find his sister if he follows the elephant. But there has never been an elephant in Baltese…or has there?

It’s a fairly traditional arc, with our suffering hero going on a journey of discovery, helped and hindered by plenty of interesting characters. It begins with a mesmerising opening scene. A magical narrator (Amy Booth-Steel) introduces us to the town and her sleight of hand provides ripples of anticipation and excitement around the theatre.

Our hero Peter (Jack Wolfe) is excellent. Naive and curious with an excellent voice and stage presence, he is totally believable as a young boy looking to belong. The police chief (Forbes Masson) provides the comedy, while the young couple (Melissa James and Marc Antolin) guide our hero on his quest. Antolin and James are wonderful to watch. Their chemistry is genuine, but their sadness is heartbreaking; in spite of this their concern for Peter is very natural and touching. Summer Strallen plays the ‘villain’ – a spoilt, childlike countess who is incensed that the elephant’s arrival has stopped people talking about her. But the real star is of course the elephant, which is an impressive feat of stage design and incredibly realistic. The lighting works well to create a mysterious ambiance which is effective and intense.

It’s a lovely story, with simple songs that children will enjoy and a nice sprinkling of humour for the adults. Although a good production, it feels quite safe and there’s little to make it stand out from other musicals. At times it is very hard to hear some of the actors, especially those speaking quickly. There are also certain topics that make the story very dark in places and almost unsuitable for very young audience members. That said, this is still a magical production that leaves you with a fuzzy, festive feeling of joy.

The Magician’s Elephant runs through 1 January.

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I Malvolio, touring and online

Tim Crouch on 'I, Malvolio,' His One-Man Show at the Duke - The ...

by Euan Vincent

This is Tim Crouch’s retelling of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night through the eyes of the
blighted and picked-upon puritan, Malvolio. It’s the fourth time Crouch has written such an adaptation, which he hopes will “unlock Shakespeare for young audiences”.

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Big Bones, VAULT Festival

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By Becky Lennon

‘’Everything is Big at the big top! Its Big, it’s whopping, the fun’s never stopping!’’ 

Nora, a clumsy girl with no gang of friends, discovers that she is the long lost great-great-great-granddaughter of Big Bones, the owner of the Big Bones Big Top Circus!  We follow her journey to the big top where she meets various characters, such as Jim Membership the strong man. Nora is also met with the news that the Big Top has a curse, which prevents audiences seeing the show. Will Nora be able to reverse the curse and reconnect audiences with the circus? 

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All Wrapped Up, Stratford Circus

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by Laura Kressly

Oily Cart makes gently immersive, highly sensory performances for people under five years old, and people with complex needs. This winter-themed touring show for little ones takes them into a world of colourful lights, dark shadows and sparkly parcels that reveal an array of treasure, from reams of bubble wrap, to coloured lights to a magnificent puppet constructed out of cellophane. As lights dim and glow amidst the white drapes and shimmering cushions, children are invited to explore the tactile, etherial landscape that evokes the the wonder of unwrapping presents on a snowy Christmas morning.

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The Mystery of the Raddlesham Mumps, Wilton’s Music Hall

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by Laura Kressly

Seven-year-old Crispin, newly orphaned and the last remaining member of the Clumps family, has inherited a creepy, country pile called Raddlesham Mumps. Managed by an ancient butler who could have stepped out of a Dickens novel or The Addam’s Family, of course there’s more to this house than meets the eye. The bright and articulate child questions what seem to be supernatural forces and a familial curse, but the answers he gets in this narrative poem are far from savoury.

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Anansi the Spider, Unicorn Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

They say that a long time ago animals could talk, just like people do now. Anansi the spider was the smartest of all these ancient creatures, and used his intelligence for all sorts of nefarious aims. His legacy of scheming lives on as a collection of stories from West Africa to the Caribbean. This new production presents three of them where the mythical trickster isn’t always the nicest, but directed by Artistic Director Justin Audibert for 4-7 year-olds, they are engaging morality tales with music, interaction and excellent performances.

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The Sea Queen and Twelfth Night, The Scoop

by Laura Kressly

Since 2003, there has been a summer of free, open-air theatre at The Scoop, a sweeping, granite amphitheatre on the Thames next to City Hall. This year’s double-bill is a 90-minute version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and a new children’s musical, The Sea Queen. Performed by one cast doing double-duty, Twelfth Night is the far superior show though there is plenty to appeal to young children in The Sea Queen.

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Dido, Unicorn Theatre

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by Laura Kressly

If theatre has a reputation for being inaccessible and snobbishly high cultured, opera is doubly regarded as such. Fortunately, the Unicorn and ENO teamed up to make this young people’s version of Dido and Aeneas, pared down to 60 minutes with an easy-to-understand story for secondary school students. However, the story is pitched as placing Dido’s teenaged daughter at the centre, but this version is not reconfigured enough to make her more than a passive observer of her mother’s collapse.

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The Show in Which Hopefully Nothing Happens, Unicorn Theatre

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By Laura Kressly

For a show in which hopefully nothing happens, there are plenty of weird and wonderful things that unfold, of course. Because a children’s show – or one for adults for that matter – would be incredibly dull indeed if nothing happened, but that’s absolutely not a worry here. 

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