Christopher Chamberlain, Charlie Folorunsho, Gilbert Taylor, Mandy Travis and Charlotte Workman are an extremely talented group of…what? Are they simply actors? No. They are also dancers, acrobats, children’s entertainers, puppeteers and musicians who between them play the violin, accordion, ukulele, percussion, trombone, trumpet, saxophone, recorder, cello, banjolel and penny tin whistle. They also appear to be just a bunch of big kids who like nothing better than to spend an hour and a half entertaining not only the four to seven year olds for whom the show is designed but also the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, guardians and babes in arms who filled the auditorium at the Polka theatre in Wimbledon.
Laura McEwen’s set design is of a room apparently sitting inside a circus tent. Four children are fed up because it is pouring with rain outside the French windows. They begin to entertain themselves, and us, with their noisy games until their mother admonishes them from “upstairs”. Mr Magnolia with his incomplete footwear elicits sympathy although the doomed romance between the boot and the ballet pump is a little lost on the younger members of the audience. More popular is the noisy demonstration of “how to upset grown ups with sudden loud noises”. Some of the noises are so sudden and so loud it was a surprise that more small people did not burst into tears, but very few did.
Act two begins with the Irish tinker playing his enchanted violin and conjuring up tropical fish and birds of paradise, projected by lighting designer Chris Barham. There is even the dramatic proof of the efficacy of his music therapy on the poor soul who has everything wrong with him but turns in an instant to a exponent of Irish dance, flying neatly across the stage to a toe tapping rhythm.
Mum calls them to order and demands that the kitchen be tidied up forthwith.. This of course leads to more deafening chaos than ever to the delight of the audience. At its height Mum reappears and guilty silence reigns, only to astound us all with a solo performance which brought the house down.
The tragedy of “The Last Biscuit in the Tin” is relieved by the final scene, that of Mrs Armitage and her extraordinary mode of transport apparently travelling considerable distances but, as in previous scenes, staying in one spot while the scenery moves past her.
Finally the moon comes out and a bedtime song calms us down for the journey home after a wonderful theatrical experience.
Photo: Robert Workman – Runs in REP until the 6th August