Momo is an adaptation of Michael Ende’s book of the same name. Presented by Filament Theatre and the Greenwich Theatre, it is currently residing at the Polka Theatre, Wimbledon aimed at audiences 7+.
We follow the story of young Momo, an abandoned child, illiterate and not knowing her age. She is welcomed to the ruins of an amphitheatre by the villagers, who embrace her for her incredible ability to listen to any problems they have. Things take a turn for the worse when the Men in Grey appear, a race that promotes the ideas of ‘time-saving’, urging the residents to bank their time wisely without wasting it. Social activities are considered wasteful, and what transpires is that the cigarettes the Men smoke are made of hour-lilies, which represent time. Since her friends are now overpowered by their time-restricted lives, it is down to Momo to extinguish the cigarettes and save the day.
Director Sabina Netherclift’s vision for the nonsensical story is a strong one, and lovingly played out on stage. It has been crafted with an original score by Osnat Schmool, which is bravely sung a cappella all the way through the two-hour play. It features much tribal influence, minimal instruments and the odd use of Ladino, a language not widely heard today. The use of local school choirs is also a prominent feature, as they help the cast sing songs with the use of sign language.
Annie Siddon’s adaptation for the stage produces a story that does feel slightly laboured in the first act, slow for the ‘action’ to begin – but the second act quickens the pace much better and leads the young audience to the show’s climax effectively.
Netherclift’s programme notes mention that the fantasy world of Momo, in which the characters share so much time with each other, is of utmost importance to today’s young society: time is to be shared with each other physically, and not virtually. I whole-heartedly agree with her values, and it seems to be prominent in the piece. It also suggests to the children the importance of friendship, listening and compassion.
Luisa Guerreiro’s Momo is a loveable character, full of heart and empathy for her fellow characters. Adebayo Bolaji leads the cast with his incredible musical talents, incorporated in the character of songwriter Guido. The rest of the ensemble provide a solid base of characters as well as portraying the Men in Grey, all displaying beautiful harmonies.
If the large groups of school children’s reactions were anything to go by, Momo is a strong adaptation full of true moral and heart, designed to keep children in a fantasy world for an afternoon.
Momo is playing The Polka Theatre, Wimbledon until 22 March. For more information and tickets see the Polka Theatre website.