Since 2008, Peut-être Theatre have been creating charming, surrealist children’s shows that have gained the approval of audiences and critics alike. Their latest show, The Little Bird Who Stayed For Winter, is a perfect theatrical experience for any youngster. Immersive, visually spectacular, and driven by a solid morally-sound storyline, it engages and challenges anyone under ten, and provides a classy, educational, alternative Christmas show.
Using a combination of dance, music and circus, Peut-être Theatre tell the story of a disenchanted French artist (Morag Cross) who is visited by a flock of chirpy, playful birds (Maya Politaki, Maxime Yelle, Charlie Hendren) amongst the rooftops of Paris one summer. When the flock fly south for the winter, one small bird (Politaki) is left behind. Over the ensuing months, the bird and Artist become friends, and the latter is slowly coaxed by the former into taking up her pen once again.
The show’s message is unambiguous enough for anyone to understand. Any friendship – even that between the most unlikely individuals – is all that is needed to help you follow your dream. It is simple, appropriate, and beautifully delivered. In Politaki’s small bird and Yelle’s nameless Artist, the children in the audience can see the value of trust and encouragement.
The cast display a synchronicity and a physicality that truly impresses throughout. The three birds dance, skip, and spin their way across the stage again and again with hypnotic fluidity. They squabble over scraps of food, scramble over each other in fear at the sight of a cat, and dance with infectious joy when the Artist picks up her accordion. Director Daphna Attias deserves huge credit for the seamlessness of her production, although I expect the laughter, cheers and stunned silences of her audience are reward enough.
Yaniv Fridel and Lemez Lovas’ original music is an ever-present accompaniment that combines recognisably French motifs with more innovative, experimental sounds. It reflects the story’s development well and provides a much-needed rhythm when the gleeful babble of children’s voices drowns out the performers – as it frequently does.
Amy Jackson’s design and Tom Webb’s lighting seamlessly combine to evoke a Parisian rooftop throughout the seasons. A series of red brick chimney-tops protrude from the floor, a washing line is strung between them, and a giant white cloud hangs behind the stage. A subtle orange tinge and a few crisp, brown leaves turns a glorious summer into a golden autumn. A flurry of tumbling snow and a bright, chilly white light turns autumn into winter. It is an elegant, arresting backdrop to an elegant, arresting story.
The Little Bird Who Stayed For Winter is playing the Roundhouse until 4 January 2016. For more information and tickets, see the Roundhouse website. Photo by Peut-être Theatre.