All children want their parents to be there for them, to care for them and protect them. But when a parent is deployed and leaves for military service, the balance is disrupted and it’s hard to predict how a child will react in their parent’s absence. Some will cope by defending themselves, distancing themselves from the absent parent, believing themselves to be abandoned; some might create a defence mechanism by living in their own imagination.
Freddy’s dad is fighting a war far away, leaving Freddy and his mum to deal with his absence. One day Freddy receives a mysterious text from his dad who’s in trouble, and only his son can help. Freddy finds himself transported through time to the labyrinth of ancient Minos, on a quest to save the people from the terror of the Minotaur – half-man, half-bull – who is devouring the young boys sent to his labyrinth. With the help of Ariadne, a young girl who can see into the future, he must face the Minotaur and his fears in order to save his father in the mythical world as well as the real one.
Polka Theatre is famous for creating world-class children’s theatre, and they certainly don’t disappoint with Minotaur. It’s an action-packed, energised and beautifully designed production with a very talented cast, who understand the difficulty of connecting with a young audience and who carry a piece all the way through without losing any of the children in the auditorium. Ben Stott brings fantastic energy, youth and commitment to Freddy, who as the young Theseus of ancient Greece has to endure trials and quests in order to save his dad. Carla Langley is a sweet and feisty Ariadne, and the rest of the cast double impressively as characters from both worlds encountering Freddy/Theseus in the fight against the Minotaur and his longing for his dad.
Using puppetry, Tim Lutkin’s brilliant lighting design and Lily Arnold’s magical set and costumes, which fit the age group perfectly, director Michael Fentiman shows that he doesn’t just master complexity, but that his story-telling skills are clear and engaging with one of the hardest targets: children, who need clarity and stimulating visuals in order to not get bored. Kevin Dyer’s script is touching and exhilarating, and writing about children’s experiences of a parent going to war using ancient Greek myths is a genius combination that you would hope to see more of in the future.
Minotaur is a great show for children, but adults will find themselves just as entertained and moved by the story.
Minotaur is playing at the Polka Theatre until 24 May. For more information and tickets, see the Polka Theatre website.