Jabberwocky

Critics' choice
© Ellie Kuttz

This Lewis Carroll adaptation is another effortlessly charming show from London's premiere puppet theatre

Do you know your borogoves from your slithy toves? Not to worry if you don’t. There’s a copy of Lewis Carroll’s poem ‘Jabberwocky’ in the programme for this stage adaptation, and the performance opens with a bedtime reading of it to the boy marionette who’s about to set off on his quest-within-a-dream.

Little Angel Theatre’s take on Carroll’s nonsense masterpiece has been revived and rebooted, with some of the original 2004 team (including director Steve Tiplady, designer Peter O’Rourke and puppeteer Mandy Travis) still pulling the strings. And it’s some very deft pulling indeed that transports us to the tulgey wood where our beamish boy learns to conquer fear as he encounters one peculiar creature after another.

The fidgety mome wraths who screech ‘Grabe!’ are delightfully Pythonesque to anyone old enough to recall the knights who say ‘Ni!’ in ‘The Holy Grail’. The rod-operated frumious Bandersnatch, all lanky limbs and wild eyes, provides a frisson of excitement when it lurches off the stage and through the intimate auditorium. As for the headliner, this is no Gruffalo with a detailed list of physical attributes; Carroll specifies little beyond ‘jaws that bite’, manxome-ness and a tendency to whiffle, so you can’t know what the Jabberwock will look like but, well… it’s best to see the snicker-snack climax for yourself.

With no dialogue to speak of, the puppeteers perform impressive vocal acrobatics while Hannah Marshall and Ben Glasstone’s atmospheric music does much of the mood-setting work, switching between eerie, foreboding, puzzled and playful. Along the way some moments are savoured almost to the point of dilly-dallying. But with such craftsmanship and passion behind it, this ‘Jabberwocky’ will entrance children and grown-ups alike. ’Tis brilligant.

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