There’s a reason that the latest offering from the Little Angel kids’ theatre comes with a (relatively, for this venue) hefty five-to-11 age advisory, despite being a charming story about an adorable little puppet girl hanging out with an adorable puppet orangutan, an adorable puppet jaguar and an adorable puppet turtle.
Namely, ’There’s a Rang-Tang in My Bedroom & Other Stories’ is an eco parable with a fair amount of bite. Adapted by James Sellick from a 2019 Greenpeace film (which he also turned into a picture book), the premise is essentially that said girl is perturbed to discover that various playful tropical creatures have shacked up in her home, causing mischief. She wants them gone. But when she finally asks them what they’re doing there, they show her visions of the destruction humans have wrought upon their habitats.
It’s a fairly full-on message for little ones, though I guess no more so than the endless string of parent deaths you find in the films of Disney. But director and puppet designer Maia Kirkman-Richards’s production gets the balance right: mostly, it’s charming. Every role and puppet is delightfully performed by Ajjaz Awad and Aya Nakamura, and even the serious bits are bound up in enchanting ideas: a huge blue sheet over the heads of the audience to represent the sea turtle’s ocean home; a criss-crossing web of ropes to represent the orangutan’s habitat.
However, when each segment curdles into something sad, the message is pretty clear-cut, not least because each animal explains its plight in a mournful voiceover – which in the case of the orangutan is performed, pre-recorded, by the one-and-only Emma Thompson (it’s a brief role but a thrill to hear her voice, and I have to say that, with no physical programme, I didn’t realise until afterwards that the jaguar was voiced by comic Doc Brown and the turtle by singer Rag’n’Bone Man).
Crucially, the show aims to empower kids rather than leave them shuffling out of the theatre in a state of ennui. Towards the end there’s a cute bit in which the girl phones for help in sorting out the planet, and the smaller members of the audience are invited to answer the actual phone at the back. After that, there’s a brainstorming session to work out what they might do to help. I could bore on here and say that I’m not 100 percent sure that stressing the personal responsibility of private citizens over the moral obligations of governments is entirely a brilliant thing. But that’s probably not a show for five-to-11-year-olds. ‘There’s a Rang-Tang in My Bedroom’ ends leaving its audience believing they can fix the world: and if we’re very lucky, one of them might.