15 November 2015
Reviewed by Jenny Bray
This is a 45 minute puppet show aimed at children, with a guide of 4+. With the title of the show being what it is this was never going to be your ordinary, run of the mill show!
I took my two older children, who are 5 and 3½, to see this show at the Civic in Barnsley at 2.30pm yesterday. Although this is one of my closest theatres I had never actually been to the Civic before. It is situated right in the centre of Barnsley and was very easy to get to. I found on street parking just round the corner from the theatre, as a bonus where I parked is free on a Sunday.
The theatre itself is in a quite odd looking multiple level building. Once I’d found the entrance it was very neat and modern inside and it was easy to navigate from the box office to where the show was being held. As theatres go this is quite a small scale one, with an intimate feel, which was perfect for this show.
On arrival we were informed that the set up had been changed at the last minute and, instead of having formal numbered seating, the auditorium was set up with large bean bags at the front for children to sit on and rows of seats at the back for adults (although some children sat on the seats and I’m sure adults could have sat on the bean bags if they wished). This set up worked really well as the children were sat really close to the set.
The show starts with the lines, ‘Did you ever lose a shoe, that tumbled into a bird that flew, over the sea to an island new, where creatures strange and mysterious grew, from a wondrous, magical Shoe Kangaroo?’ The show is run by one person and is puppetry and mime with the odd sound thrown in, a few more lines and a very recognisable, shoe related song part way through! The whole show is somewhat surreal and I would have loved to have been inside the mind of the person or people who came up with the idea in the first place!
The set is simple but ingenious. It consists of a couple of stages for the puppets that are the bases of shoes. All the characters interact on these, with one called ‘one shoe island’, which has lots of single old shoes on it. The show revolves around a few key, shoe based, characters. The ‘shoe kangaroo’ could refer to either the mother kangaroo, made of shoes and a handbag, or the baby kangaroo who is a smaller character with a sock body. Other shoes come to life when given eyes by a bright yellow welly part way through the show. The ‘big bad boot’ doesn’t appear until quite close to the end of the show and starts as a slithering, single knee high red boot. It then finds a match and becomes an evil character that grows a head and preys on the other characters! This description should help you realise just how bizarre the setting and story is!
As an adult, I was impressed with how many characters could be built out of old shoes. I found the show a little slow at the start, with all the action focussed towards the end. The overall length of the show, at 45 minutes, was about right given the target audience of quite young children. All the children who were watching were kept entertained during this time. My children were mesmerised by all the different characters. When I asked them at the end which character they liked the most one liked the big kangaroo and the other the baby kangaroo.
As an extra, at the end, you get to see all the characters close up (or at least the children get to be close up while the adults stay seated) and the narrator/puppeteer (Mark) then talks through how each of them was made. This is when you realise that even more of the characters than you already thought are made up of bits of old shoe! I thought this was great addition to the show. As well as getting to see all the puppets it then gave the children a chance to ask any questions too.
If you have young children and are looking for something surreal and a little different from your standard children’s entertainment then this show is worthy of a visit.
For other shows at the Civic Theatre in Barnsley visit www.barnsleycivic.co.uk.
The Civic, Hanson Street, Barnsley, S70 2HZ | 01226 327000