Anna Kemp’s Dogs Don’t Do Ballet is brought to life by master of puppets, the Little Angel Theatre. First-time director and co-adapter David Duffy creates a charming and loveable production which will have children desperate to find their own dogs who can (quite magically) do ballet: I know I certainly had my eyes peeled walking down Upper Street after the show.
Kemp’s children’s story seems a natural fit for adapting to puppetry, but unlike other Little Angel Theatre productions, there’s a good deal of acting work from puppeteers Ronnie Le Drew and Andrea Sadler without the aid of puppets. As wonderful as this is, I couldn’t help but wish for a few more puppets and a little more manipulation, even if Le Drew is brilliant as the ballet instructor.
Nonetheless, as Biff the ballet-dancing dog starts to twirl about the stage, leg raised high and arms outstretched, there’s a melting of the heart and an audible ‘aww’ from the audience. A dog in a tutu really is quite magical, even more so as a puppet. The puppets, designed and made by Keith Frederick, are charming, with Biff the obvious standout with his squishy tummy and flicking legs. As an introduction to puppetry, Dogs Don’t Do Ballet is the perfect entry-level for young children.
When the story kicks in and the stage space is transformed into the Royal Ballet, with excellent music composed by Alex Carter, Dogs Don’t Do Ballet conveys a real theatrical joy. Running at just under an hour, this small and sweet production practically charms the puppets off the hands of their manipulators.
Dogs Don’t Do Ballet is playing at the Little Angel Theatre until 2 February 2014. For more information and tickets, see the Little Angel Theatre website.