Edinburgh Fringe 2012
"Backhand Theatre returns after a hit Fringe 2011, bringing to life this magical literary classic by Margery Williams. " We saw them in 2011 and it is as good and freshas ever.
Adapted for the stage by Jake Linzey, young adults play the children in pyjamas as lights come up a nursery. Children at play…Raggy the rag doll tells the tale, a classic archetypal fable set during a time when toys were clockwork and rabbits filled with sawdust.
Backhand’s style is simple and direct. The drama is often full of emotion and we have puppets that ooze charm and soft pastel shade colours.
It’s good to see Backhand Theatre have finessed the piece since last year. Delivery is sharper, even better. Voice work is crisp and not a word is lost.
It’s the simplicity, in the staging of both people and puppets that is the strength of the piece. The puppets are quirky and beautiful, the background music bedtimey and soothing. The storytelling is a notch up on last year and all the characterisations feel stronger, more refined and full of belly-energy.
The atmosphere of the book has been respectfully and lovingly preserved. They haven’t taken unnecessary liberties with the original material and I applaud their recognition of the need to allow this simple exploration of "real and imagined" to speak out through the theatre on show and not through any gimicry.
There’s a hint of ego in this threesome ensemble piece and that keeps it balanced and near perfectly modulated as a bit of storytelling. The threejoin up seamlessly as performers throughout.
One aspect that I question the necessity of and that is the small amount of audience interaction. It interrupts the flow in the wrong way. These are able enough theatre makers not to need to break that fourth wall so clumsily. Break it for a good reason, one that serves the flow, or don’t break it at all.
However, it’s all delivered with warm affection for the material, lovingly recreating the book’s essence for the stage. There’s a strong sense of story and the narrative is realised through gentleness, nothing garish, evocative costumes and the impressive vocal and physical skills of performers who hold the tale from start to finish.
The Velveteen Rabbit is a journey story and we arrive somewhere that made me tearful for good reasons for the second year running.