Subversive family shaggy doggery from the great Forced Entertainment
‘The Possible Impossible House’ is the first ever kids’ theatre excursion from the great experimental theatre company Forced Entertainment. But there’s always been a childlike anarchy to the conceptual wheezes dreamed up by founder Tim Etchells and his cohorts, and certainly this show – performed by Richard Lowdon and Cathy Naden, with scruffy fairytale projections by Vlatka Horvat – feels gratifyingly of a piece with their work as a whole.
In fact, my biggest worry about ‘TPIH’ is that its sly deconstruction of fairy stories and children’s adventure offers more for Forced Entertainment-loving adults than for the stated aged seven-plus audience. But then, while there are several layers of irony to this deadpan narrated adventure that’ll go over the heads of the young ’uns, maybe that’s the point. Lowdon and Naden are very palpably two middle-aged adults, and the bickering, deadpan faux-ineptitude with which they tell the story is an acknowledgement of that for themselves, as much as anything.
The story itself is in fact delightfully childish: the sort of rambling, illogical but dazzlingly inventive yarn you might expect a seven-year-old to come up with themselves. Recounted by Lowdon, illustrated by Horvat and with a series of varyingly appropriate sound effects from Naden, it tells of an excursion to the titular house, where we meet a girl who lives in an old book, who is missing the spider who used to live on the opposite page, and wants us to go and find him. There then follows a fairly insane series of encounters with wildlife – a helpful mouse, some xenophobic birds, an irrational rhino – before it all resolves itself in one charming animated blowout.
It’s a cracking kids’ yarn that’s subversively free from the happy clappy conventions of children’s theatre. And while I’m not sure whether this last point is one children will actually appreciate, the audience’s rapt silence seemed vindication enough for ‘The Possible Impossible House’ as a work of storytelling.
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