This is a review of the September 2019 production. 'The Bed' returns in October 2021.
A kids’ show based on a Sylvia Plath poem sounds like some sort of elaborate new punishment devised for the post-spanking era. But just as ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ didn’t really offer much of a steer on ‘The Wasteland’, so Plath’s posthumously published ‘The Bed Book’ bears no resemblance to the immolating fires of ‘Ariel’.
Written for her kids and published in 1976 with illustrations from Quentin Blake, ‘The Bed Book’ has largely faded into obscurity. But if forms the basis for this extremely charming theatre show, returning for its second run of the year at the Little Angel’s studio space.
There are two iterations of ‘Bed’, one for babies (six-to-18-months) and one for toddlers (18-months-to-three-years). Being possessed of a 19-month-old, I went to the latter, though I believe the difference is simply a matter of there being a reduced capacity for the babies.
Anyway, it’s lovely. Performer Ruth Calkin is sat on a giant white bed. She starts by reciting bits of Plath’s charmingly lightweight poem (‘most beds are beds for sleeping and resting, but the best beds are much more interesting’). But in fact the words, although a jumping-off point, are not the main focus of the show, which is written and directed by Samantha Lane. Instead as ‘The Bed’ proceeds, Calkin deftly manipulates hidden compartments on the bed or pulls back bits of cover to unleash a veritable hidden hoard of puppets, which hypnotise the young audience as she carries them through the intimate room, allowing everybody a touch. Smartly designed by Sophia Lovell Smith and with pleasingly twinkling lighting by Sherry Coenen, ‘The Bed’ is inventive and cosy and welcoming and difficult to leave, as enticing as a duvet on a chilly morning.