It’s no exaggeration to say that a lot of adults find opera hard work. Props then to Little Angel and Polka Theatre, who have gone for an even harder audience to please with ‘Skitterbang Island’, an opera aimed at three to eight-year-olds.
Of course, this puppet show is about as far from traditional opera as you could get. Phil Porter’s libretto follows a young girl and her uncle who get shipwrecked and separated on a strange island. Marie meets a little frowning monster, Skitterbang, who welcomes her into his home and, as they both discover, has a penchant for singing.
The 45-minute piece is entirely sung through by three actors who also manipulate three puppets. As always with the Little Angel’s marionettes, they are undeniably delightful. Skitterbang’s facial expressions are hugely evocative; his rough, smiley face and blinking eyes fall somewhere between Yoda and the sand fairy from ‘Five Children and It’.
Laura McEwen’s versatile designs, featuring old tins, forks and spoons hanging from every corner, have a higgledy-piggledy charm. She manages to turn a very simple use of colourful lights into something that made the young audience I was with gasp with glee.
Martin Ward’s music is surprisingly operatic but certainly not so complex as to make the kids fidgety. Occasionally I found it difficult to make out the words in Porter’s text, but the story is straightforward enough for that not to matter too much. This is a magical introduction to the world of opera.