Thumbelina[author-post-rating] (4/5 Stars)

New up-and-coming theatre company Bard and Troubadour tell the story of Thumbelina, a little girl no bigger than a human thumb, with the help of a few colourful characters including a lascivious frog, an evil mole, a helpful swallow and a mayfly (who reminds the adults in the audience very much of a certain Lord Flashheart of Blackadder fame).

Joshua Crisp and Amy Sutton are the dynamic duo that form award-winning theatre company Bard and Troubadour. From the moment you enter the theatre, the pair interact with the audience, establishing a bond with the children that proves invaluable for the telling of the famous Hans Christian Anderson tale, where audience participation is a must. Their ad-libbing skills (in response to the abundant heckling from gleeful children) have been honed to perfection and provide extra spontaneous comedy – even when on-stage participants are a little nervous, the cast take it in their stride and never allow it to disrupt the flow.

Sutton’s wide-eyed enthusiasm is a hit with the kids, whilst Crisp’s deft puppetry skills and his ability to jump from character to character (complete with spot-on accents for each) cause uproar from the highly captivated children in the front rows. Although there are moments in the songs where nerves show through, Sutton’s singing voice is clear as a bell and is complemented very well by Crisp’s powerful tenor.

Sadly, on this occasion much of the speech and singing is lost beneath the music, especially when coming from the back of the stage. In an attempt to project over the backing track the cast’s voices occasionally sound strained, so the production as a whole may benefit from a few microphones. However, this did not seem to bother the over-excited audience members, young and old, who threw caution to the wind and shouted, clapped and danced along with the characters at every opportunity.

The costumes are colourful, the stage is bright with fairy lights and flowers and the puppets are well-designed (the mole with its giant claws is particularly terrifying). With a nostalgic feel of pantomime – the theatre did lapse into an exchange of “Oh no he isn’t!”, “Oh yes he is!” on more than one occasion – there is humour to cater for both the children and the adults in the audience, which makes it a great activity for a family day out and an enjoyable experience for all ages.

Thumbelina plays again at The Warren on 24 May. For more information and tickets, see the Brighton Fringe website.