The Little Angel Theatre’s latest production is inspired by Lewis Carroll’s nonsensical poem ‘Jabberwocky’, charmingly retold using playful delivery, an entrancing soundscape and an inventive use of puppetry. We follow a young “beamish boy” as he navigates through an enchanted forest on his quest to defeat the notorious Jabberwock. On his journey, the nameless protagonist crosses paths with an array of mysterious creatures such as the fluttering Jubjub birds, the futuristic mome raths and the fearsome Bandersnatch. Peter O’Rourke’s imaginative and cleverly crafted puppets breath life into Carroll’s wacky and off-beat creations.
Excitedly bouncing on his main operator’s hand, a small marionette puppet settles down to hear the tale of the infamous Jabberwock. Louise Warren’s adaptation relies solely on gibberish-laden text to piece together a visually engaging narrative. Scale and perspective are manipulated throughout, as the barely palm-sized puppet outgrows his house and transforms into a much larger version of himself that appears to be closer to the audience. Growing in confidence with every encounter, our “frumious” hero begins to believe that he truly can slay the mythical Jabberwock with his “vorpal sword”.
The sophisticated and highly skilled display of puppeteering in Jabberwocky is testament to just how far the art form has involved: it’s a far cry from an uninspiring Punch and Judy show that you would commonly find at the end of any seaside pier. It is clear that in Jabberwocky, every movement has been meticulously choreographed to achieve such an astounding range of pedestrianised movement. A fine example of this is the long-limbed green Bandersnatch (who towers over the boy),whose movement vocabulary has an almost monkey-like quality as he swings from place to place, scaling the walls of the Little Angel Theatre. Such fluid and realistic movement is truly impressive.
Mandy Travis, Stan Middleton, Sarah Wright and Nele De Craecker form the effervescent cast of four master puppeteers, each with an impressive array of character-driven voices. The talented quartet pave the way through this nonsense poem with great aplomb. The only real fault I can find with this production is that the Jabberwock puppet isn’t quite as climatic and impressive as I had expected; I think more could have been done to differentiate it from the other bird-type creatures within the work.
That said, this is a delightful and majestic production that will leave you with many reasons to exclaim “Callooh! Callay!”; it is a fantabulous introduction to the realms of possibility in puppetry.
Jabberwocky is playing at the Little Angel Theatre until 1 February. For tickets and more information see the Little Angel Theatre website. Photo by Ellie Kurttz.