Brighton Year-Round 2021
A tiny tale told by tiny creatures about BIG ideas. Told though the language of insects, Du Iz Tak? is a story about the cycle of life and all its impermanence. A stunning visual aesthetic combined with clever puppetry make this new adaptation of Carson Ellis’s picture book a total delight.
There are secrets in the undergrowth. A ‘gladdenboot’ is peeking up from the soil, a bug buzzes above and a large ladybird bustles about self importantly. Beneath a broadcloth sky, to a music-box tune, insects in hats or with spectacles emerge, chatting their own insect language, getting ready for whatever the new day brings.
Carson Ellis’s popular picture book is brought truly alive in this exquisitely made and beautifully paced show for children. No action lacks a purpose; with deft hands two puppeteers manipulate their tiny charges, building the landscape as they go. Attention is firmly focused on the set, cleverly built from a suitcase and table with a rolling canvas backdrop. The grandeur of the Theatre Royal’s interior retreats as insects pop up from hidey holes to go about their daily tasks. The detail in the making is extraordinary, with cries of “Henry Hoover!” when a centimetre small version appears.
There’s a touch of magical realism to Ellis’s story; the cricket plays a violin, damsel flies build a tree house, the ladybird likes to relax in a deckchair and read a book (in her own language we assume.) Whilst there isn’t a moral as such neither is there sentimentality. A giant spider spreads it web over the plant only to be picked off by an even bigger bird. Night falls and with it snow and another dawn in the garden. The work and the play goes on.
Most children in the audience are familiar with the book, have a favourite character and know some of the lingo. But even for the novice like me the creative text is understandable and the piece a predominantly visual feast.
The combined talents of Annie Brooks (maker and puppeteer) Katherine Morton of Long Nose Puppets fame (maker and puppeteer), Sophie Ellen Powell (puppeteer and director) and puppeteer Lisa Mills elegantly blend design and function. Even backstage is beautiful, with the puppets nestling in an old fashioned sewing box, and the exit corridor decorated with rag-bunting and little Du Iz Tak? scenes. The performers (at this show Annie Brooks and Catherine Morton) wear matching dungarees and top-knots, engaging the kids whilst they settle with an easy and charming rapport.
With its compact set and pool of performers this miniature epic is perfect for touring to all kinds of settings. If you see it listed book quickly; the kids will love you for it.
One thing is certain; I’ll never look at a woodlouse the same way again. Ta ta furt.