The Tear Thief

4 out of 5 stars
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A silvery, elfin figure flits across the city in the hours between supper and bedtime, stealing the tears of every child who cries and dropping them into her glittering sack. This captivating premise is based on the book by the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, and, apart from a subplot about a lost dog, it is about as complex as the storyline goes. So it's a mark of the show's inventiveness that the young audience were clearly enthralled on the day we visited.

Being the Little Angel, puppets are the stars, and the piece is a stunning showpiece for their possibilities. All types of puppets make an appearance, from marionettes to hand-held models and shadow puppets, with some characters represented by several sizes and shapes. The skill of puppeteers Claire Harvey and Lowri James is at times breathtaking, as the tiniest and most delicate of movements convey a wealth of emotion.

There are moments when the tone threatens to become a little too earnest, but this is offset by the funny and fast-paced scenes where the Tear Thief peers into the windows where the children are crying.

There is a wonderfully playful use of perspective as we see some scenes from afar, with tiny puppets enacting a sibling fight though one window, or in close up, where through another, we see the hands of an actor reaching down to wipe the bottom of a baby who is having its nappy changed.

Lyrical narration by Juliet Stevenson, and a haunting musical accompaniment on cello and violin by James Hesford, enhance the magical atmosphere.

However, the final meaning of the piece is ambiguous and provoked some lively after-show questions. Why are, according to the Tear Thief, the saddest tears the most beautiful? And does that mean that sadness is beautiful, or that the emotion of sadness should be valued more? Something to think about perhaps, next time you reach for the box of Kleenex.


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