I like adventures very much, probably, in fact, just as much as any child whose thirst for knowledge has only just begun. I’m also a big fan of new discoveries or at least feeling as though something is a new discovery – a secret you might say. Travelling to see Jennifer Skylark and the Seagull’s Handbook on the Thames Clipper felt like one big, secretive adventure, ready to be ploughed through hungrily by myself and my fellow voyagers.
Though this whole experience may start off on a boat, the show actually takes place on Trinity Buoy Wharf, a location just a stone’s throw away from the O2 and East India Quay in East London. The Clipper takes approximately three seconds to get to the destination and immediately upon arriving you feel as though you are in a place abandoned by sailors many years ago, with an old fashioned diner plonked in the middle and beautiful warehouses scattered about in an old-time movie type way. There is so much character here that one can’t help but wonder how more people aren’t aware of it. The show starts in one of these buildings and as we are led to a series of stools, all facing a long empty, bright space, I wonder what I have let myself in for.
It is evident from start to finish that Jennifer Skylark and the Seagull’s Handbook is a production for children, what with its overtly informative narrative content and structure, however this will not stop those over the age of five from having an absolutely great time. The story looks to show what it was like for children who were ripped from their homes during the first three post-war years and up until 1970, sent to countries within the Commonwealth to start new lives, often never seeing their families again. Jennifer Skylark is one such child who is taken away from her uncle after her parents die and sent on a ship to Australia. Here is where much of the adventure takes place as the stubborn and confused Jennifer must face beastly teacher, Ms Critchley, and the downright hilarious and good natured Captain, as well as a pair of Vikings who must be seen to be believed.
The production as a whole is phenomenally professional, and so much care and effort has been made to make it as close to perfect as possible. It is wonderfully nice to hear original songs, especially within a small production and team, and more so to have them done with such enthusiasm and belief by the entire cast. The set too, created by Designer Bryan Woltjen, flows brilliantly and looks spectacular. Special mention really, has to go to every performer here. Catriona Mackenzie does an excellent job of playing the young Jennifer, convincing us with every word she utters and every single facial expression. Andrew Hayler (Captain), Matt Ian Kelly (Ms Critchley) and Tomas Gisby (Uncle Jack/ Cook) all bring something special and unique to the table with a blend of puppetry, humour and a (huge) dose of camp. Wonderful.
Sure, this is aimed at young children but the subject is interestingly and unknown enough to appeal to adults. It is also hard not to appreciate something when so much has obviously been put in, and it shows.
Jennifer Skylark and the Seagull’s Handbook is playing at the Trinity Buoy Wharf until 11 August 2013. For more information and tickets, see Greenwich Theatre.