Edinburgh Fringe 2017
Eleanor is going in to hospital and takes her Badger with her. He slips from under her pillow and goes with her on a journey through her thoughts and fears that are given presence as animals and voices that are in her head and make her wary. Eventually she finds her own courage and her fortitude and makes a very brave decision.
Children’s theatre is a tricky place in which to work. There are increasing numbers of companies who like to produce work that is worthy and based in the issues and worries of adults and children. This takes a very real worry that all sick children will have – what happens when you go into hospital which is the launching pad and what is brilliantly creative about this piece is that by not constantly returning to that as the theme we more readily get it.
The performances are simply sumptuous. The puppets are expertly manipulated and Eleanor in particular is given such life by the appearance of fear and the bravery she gets from her very forgetful familiar – the badger. Whilst the hornets may be annoying, the ostriches particularly funny, Mr Emonger just a tad creepy, the mushrooms a delight and the Demons simply scary, the whole of the piece is what impresses so much.
By the end when each character gives Eleanor and us an explanation of who they are in her head and soul it is evident just what her choice is going to be. Such inevitability comes with the skill of an expert storyteller and we are in their presence here.
The lighting – the fire in the basement was quite inventive – and the costume are excellent whilst the direction if each element is assured and worthy. The performances of each of the characters with the puppets in toe are measured and the Badger in particular keeps us on the right side of innocence.
Overall, we have a very skilled performance that manages to cover a scary topic that a child and her parents would recognise. The solution is couched in very theatrical terms but as the parent of a child with a sick heart I can see how this would comfort my Eleanor as much as those of us who would be by her side willing her to come through.