This opera show for the under fives is a little po-faced
‘I don’t like the man,’ announced my two-year-old daughter, as bearded cellist Sergio Serra loomed out of the darkness in his movable chair, like some musical Davros, to play his scratches and squeaks. He was soon joined by Sarah Dacey singing a series of complimentary pitches, further contributing to this exercise in extended technique. Meanwhile, dancer Jasmilina Sipilä limbered around the tiny stage, doing tentative cartwheels and holding 3D cardboard shapes.
Don’t get me wrong: director Joy Haynes’s piece is 40 minutes of competently played abstract music theatre that wouldn’t be out of place in an adult contemporary opera series like Tête à Tête – but this is supposedly aimed at children under five. In fact, it’s a co-production between the Polka Theatre and the Royal Opera House designed ‘to draw young audiences into a musical world of movement, dance and play’. However, with no introduction, no interaction, no discernible narrative, it seems a very po-faced approach to presenting dramatic art to such tender souls, plunging them into darkness, forcing them to sit in silence behind a line, and not inviting them to join in.
The show, like the music by Elspeth Brooke, is quite inconsequential; it is billed as a journey through a fantastical garden – really? Anyway, let’s allow the children to be the judges. Both my two- and four-year-old left after ten minutes, the former because she was frightened, the latter because he was bored. ‘It wasn’t very funny,’ he later explained. When it was over, it was announced that the remaining children could stay behind and examine the musical cardboard shapes. Only a handful did – it was too little, too late.
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My 20 month old and I absolutely loved this show and she has been talking about it ever since. It was a lovely introduction to experimental music that was engaging, energetic, creative and stimulating without ever resorting to cheap gags to engage more disruptive children (as it sounded like this reviewer's children were!) At the showing I was at no children left or showed any sign of boredom and all were glued to the stage, engaged by the show and appreciating the music and the creativity of the score and its performers.
Gosh, this is all terribly mean.
I took my 3-year-old to see this production and she loved it. Our version of events are very different to the ones laid out this ‘review’. From what he’s said here, we were definitely in the same audience.
What this reviewer has neglected to mention is that from the very start of the show, his children were highly disruptive – very noisy – far more so than any of the others. They virtually obliterated the first 5 minutes of music. My daughter kept turning around and looking at them as if to say ‘shut up!’. Afterwards she said ‘that boy was silly’.
What he also didn’t say was that when there was plenty of laughter from the other children and parents, his child yelled out several times, ‘Everybody stop laughing! Everybody stop laughing!’ in an attention seeking way. If anything was po-faced, it was his reaction and his alone. When they both got taken out of the theatre, you could feel the relief of tension from the entire audience.
If his son found it ‘boring’, then I dread to think how he keeps them occupied at home. Maybe his personal cynicism has rubbed off on his kids? Children’s imaginations need to be stimulated and that’s exactly what I felt this show did. Not everything for children has to be over-the-top and patronising – this show was beautiful, awe-inspiring and experimental. If he wanted something more interactive, then take them to see panto. Perhaps this show was just a little to sophisticated for their tastes?!
Go see it, it’s very different, the visuals are beautiful, the sound effects are wacky, the performers are very engaging. My daughter talked about it all the following week. :)