The Little Angel in Islington has been delighting little audiences for sixty years, so I was pleased to be invited to see their new main house production, There May Be A Castle, as well as popping in next door to see a lovingly curated exhibition of marionettes presented by Lyndie Wright, co-creator of the venue with her late husband John.
Adapted by Barb Jungr and Samantha Lane from the book by Piers Torbay, with songs by Jungr and direction by Lane (who currently acts as artistic director for the Little Angel’s output across two live performance spaces and growing YouTube channel), this show uses live action and puppets (designed by Judith Hope) to present a fantastical and challenging Christmas story.
Mouse (Stacey Read) is travelling with her sisters Violet (Georgia-Mae Myers, her character obsessed with lady pirates) and Esme (Kat Johns-Burke), and Mum (Ruth Calkin), to see Grandad (Gilbert Taylor) for Christmas. Her toy donkey and dinosaur go with her, but it is starting to look like a treacherous journey in the snow. When danger strikes, and the family never arrive, it is up to Mouse to find her way into the castle and become champion of the quest.
With a definite feel of The Wizard of Oz as Mouse first finds a friendly sheep she calls ‘Baaa’ plus new friends including the toys who are now huge and able to talk, and a travelling jester, the action in There May Be A Castle moves between Mouse’s quest and the family car.
Although the show deals with death and grief, it is done in a sensitive way you can explain to a child. I was left thinking of the way bereavement was dealt with in TV shows aimed at children in the 1970s – notably Pipkins and Sesame Street. Don’t talk down to children and they will quicky engage with complex subjects.
The songs are catchy – I particularly liked the one in the churchyard about skulls once having “ordinary lives”, and the rallying call to the Pirate Queen – and both puppetry and projection (video designed by Libby Ward) are expertly done.
Book for this show here, which runs until 23 January 2022, and is available for school groups as well as individual bookings.
Image credit: Ellie Kurttz