The Wrong Crowd beautifully choreograph one little girl’s journey of grief, narrated with an excellent score by Isobel Waller-Bridge and some really heart-felt performances.
This is a very beautiful story created by the Wrong Crowd team, yet again integrating the visual world firmly within their narratives. As this is their first production without words (and thus suitably placed within the London International Mime Festival), the other elements of storytelling are invited to capture our imaginations, and for the most part, I think succeeds.
The performances are strong, with Charlotte Croft leading as the young girl who has recently lost her mother. Croft is youthful and charming in this role with great physicality. The dynamic between her and the grandmother, played by Liz Crowther, feels tender and genuine which really evokes the audience’s sympathy as the grandmother is pushed away. Crowther’s performance is a joy to watch and brings a light humour to the piece through her caring nature and comic physicality. At points I thought there was perhaps a little too much lightness for a women who has (we assume) just lost her own daughter, but I suppose there’s a certain amount of artistic/dramaturgic license here if you’re aiming a show at families. The magic moment with the umbrella is particularly memorable but there are several occasions when the audience really warms to this character.
The other two performers play the magical presence, Kite, and are characterised as The Wind. In many ways this natural force is a satisfying metaphor for a puppeteer as they breathe life into inanimate objects. We view the world of this piece through the eyes of Linden Walcott-Burton and Nicola Blackwell. They show the audience where to look, show what is magical, and at the end, a little nod to each other, lets the audience know the story has also ended. There are some lovely moments with these performers who play with the beautifully designed kite itself.
Most of the design elements in Kite are created by director/designer Rachael Canning. The puppets are crafted well, and although their direction could have been more precise, I believe they may be a little too small to be fully appreciated in the Soho Theatre. They also appear a little unexpectedly in the middle of this piece, and left me curious as to why they existed and what their rules were in this performance. But despite that, they elicited some beautiful storytelling sections and allowed this narrative to reach another level where we observe the young girl at points watching herself and her adventurous journey of grief.
The set was intricate and multi-faceted for many purposes throughout the story, and at times really served the show. The train carriage doubles as the structure for Grandma’s house, and they imaginatively squeeze inside the fridge to travel upward in a lift. Sometimes this set shifting and manipulating simply looses pace and becomes a little laborious (nothing that a few more runs won’t sort out). The through line of these design elements however is clear: it is a world of magic and illusion where things come to life and aren’t quite as they seem; this is certainly present and is captivating throughout.
The two fix points of this production was the movement and music. Eddie Kay’s choreography laces its way throughout this word-less story, with a beautiful momentum that made the audience empathise and audibly laugh with this little girl. The section at the dinner table had a heightened sense of everyday life and really captured the tugging relationship between the two main characters. Waller-Bridge’s composition is truly beautiful, reminiscent of movie legends James Horner and Thomas Newman with effortless scene setting, musical storytelling and melodies that accompanied me home on the tube. Her cleverly intermingled sound design served the production well, moving us through the narrative and entirely shaping this little girl’s world.
Although the visual aesthetic appeals to children and adults alike, I’d argue that the narrative is perhaps a little advanced for some of the audience members. A little guy in front of me at the end declared it was ‘fantastic’ but mum had to explain what was going on at several points throughout the show. I thought it was great too, and definitely worth a watch as it tours around the UK.
Kite is playing at Soho Theatre as part of The London International Mime Festival until 6 February. For more information, see the website: www.sohotheatre.com/whats-on/kite