It’s a bit of a weird autumn for kids’ shows in London: while most theatres across the capital are at least superficially back to normal post-pandemic, both the Polka and the Unicorn are still dark following the traditional summer break, and neither will have any substantial new programming until November.
The reasons are probably more complicated than one might think, but whatever the case, of the ‘big three’ dedicated children’s theatres, it’s just the doughty Little Angel kicking off the season, with two new shows: ‘The King of Nothing’, a sassy take on ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ aimed at older primary school kids, and ‘Little Angel Theatre’s Miniature Travelling Circus’, aimed at younger ones and pre-schoolers (ages three-to-six).
In essence, the ‘Travelling Circus’ is a very winning spin on traditional kids’ party entertainment. It’s co-created by director Miranda Pitcher and performer Lizzie Wort, who takes on the role of George, sweetly prim and proper ringmaster of what she explains is a once glorious circus now fallen on hard times
We’re treated to a series of old-school party tricks – audience participation! collapsing wands! (puppet) rabbits out of hats – and a succession of turns from the various puppet animals in the circus, who range from some ‘fleas’ to a farty dog (‘Smelly Dog’).
It’s a tough one to judge in some ways: trust me, I have been to a lot of kids’ parties and while this is clearly a step up – the Little Angel Studio has been turned into a faux Big Top, the puppets are obviously a treat, and the wide-eyed Wort is a lot more fun than the average jaded street magician – it really does follow the tried and tested ‘one entertainer and some tricks’ route. Fundamentally it feels less ambitious than a lot of what the Angel does. But then, I’ve never seen a show like this at the Angel, and if they want to really nail a trad kids’ magic act, then, you know, why not? Kids love this sort of thing and there’s a comforting rhythm to it as an adult. Sometimes it’s fine to stick to a formula if it makes people happy and you do it well.