Astute readers of this blog will most likely have guessed that I am not between the ages of two and six. They may well have also concluded, given the amount of theatre I am able to watch, it is likely that I have either a very forgiving partner or no small children of my own. As a result it may be surprising to find Civilian Theatre at the Battersea Arts Centre on a Saturday afternoon to join Little Bulb and their ‘brave explorers club’ on a 55-minute adventure to Antarctica (not bad going – it takes me over 2 hours to get to Gloucester at Christmas).
Antarctica is a show for children from Little Bulb, the theatre company that thoroughly charmed this reviewer when they took full advantage of the Battersea Arts Centre’s period décor to present a wonderfully innovative take on the Orpheus and Eurydice myth.
Despite the tragedy of Eurydice they managed to introduce a humour built on whimsical charm and a very intelligent silliness that gave Orpheus a really unique feel, and it felt that their creative and spirited approach to story-telling would be perfect for the world of children’s theatre.
Paying close attention to their audience they have built up the silliness but, and this is crucial to all children’s theatre, they haven’t dumbed down the approach. At no point do you feel that Little Bulb are patronising or phoning it in. This is not Nativity 3, where if you look closely you can see £ signs where the actors’ pupils should be.
Each child is afforded the respect that any adult would be, and this is evident in the humour that runs deep throughout the show. Jokes have a structure and intelligence that acts as a reminder that there should be no cheap laughs no matter who is watching; good comedy is hard work and it requires a lot of heavy lifting to make jokes that feel this light.
The cast of Clare Beresford, Dominic Conway and Alex Scott work really hard to provide a warm and inclusive show. It starts as the audience is filing in, settling down and finding somewhere to put the various bags/scarves/hats/mittens that appear to accompany any mass family outing. Beresford and Conway create a soothing and magical atmosphere with the aid of xylophones and various percussion whilst Alex Scott (Sir Peregrine Falcon) makes himself busy teaching us all the brave explorers greeting and bestowing his sandwiches, maps and flags on various small children.