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Children, News, Performing arts, Reviews, Theatre

A lesson in overcoming life’s challenges

Junior review: Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, Moominpappa at Sea ·
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre, December 5 ·
Review by Ollie Halusz, age 13 ·

Spare Parts Puppet Theatre has kicked off its 2019 season with a remount of Moominpappa at Sea, adapted from the book by Tove Jansson. The play is about a family, the Moomins, who leave their home to find a different life out at sea, finding comfort on an island with a lighthouse. When they first arrive, they each go off to do their own separate things, discovering both challenges, such as a big storm, trying to find food and a lighthouse that doesn’t work; and delights, such as a beautiful forest, hundreds of fish and fresh soil for a garden. This play goes to show that anyone can overcome any challenges life throws at you.

Puppets from Moominpappa at Sea
The Moomins. Photo:  Jessica Wyld

The lighting, by Elliot Chambers, is effective, transporting the audience to the story’s ocean setting. The sequence with the moon is particularly evocative. The puppets, designed and made by Leon Hendroff, are well made. One particular character, the Groke, reminded me of the Dementors from the Harry Potter series. There are three versions of the Groke – represented by a cloth, a puppet and the performer, Michael Barlow, who wears the cloth to became the character.

Barlow, Spare Parts’ associate director, plays many roles in this production including voicing all of the characters as well as narrating, and was very clear and entertaining.

Leon Hendroff’s set is a miniature version of an island, featuring a lighthouse at one end. Barlow takes advantage of the blank island, using his body and language to describe the setting of a forest, and the ocean surrounding the island. Smoke enhances both the eeriness of this island in the middle of the ocean and the character of the Groke.

Lee Buddle’s music composition and sound effects help to create the sense of the environment and atmosphere.

From my perspective as a 13 year old, I didn’t find the play as enjoyable as I might have a few years ago, but it definitely would suit ages 3-7, and is an ideal outing for parents and grandparents with young children, during the Christmas holiday break.

Moominpappa at Sea plays Spare Parts Puppet Thearte, 14 Jan – 2 Feb.

Read “senior critic” Rosalind Appleby’s review of Moominpappa at Sea.

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