Fringe Online 2021
A squirrel by a tree, finds themselves, in a battle for territory with a hedgehog. In a running battle between them the hedgehog loses after running out in front of a passing car, chased by the squirrel and the squirrel has therefore won. That is, until the baby hedgehog appears and now the squirrel has to step up as a surrogate for a species not his own but for whom he has some responsibility.
This has so much going for it as it crackles with physical work allowing us into the world which tackles heavy topics – death of a parent, eating of snails, responsibilities of your actions and the simple story of being with someone as they grow.
There is an accompanying piano score played onstage throughout which deliciously draws it all together, keeping the action anchored whilst also driving the tone as well as the pace of the drama.
Performances are of such a high standard as puppetry, mime and physical action alongside clowning combine to bring the story to life. It is clear from the outset that the performances are of an exceptional level as we see the switch between each craft done with such beauty and simplicity: there is an infectious enthusiasm at play.
The storyline at times however could do with a little more than the simple. Targeted at children with heavy topics, this does not shy away from the difficult but at times it has a simplicity which dips below the needs of the audience. It could do with the squirrel having more depth in their attention to dealing with the child of a hedgehog he may have been responsible for driving to their death. The relationship between squirrel and baby hedgehog is quite quickly established and takes little by way of development and there appears to be no doubt or guilt associated.
Having said that the approach has some fantastic set pieces as they try and get the baby hedgehog to climb, the squirrel finds out about the delights of eating a snail and the whole acorn drama is beautifully done.
It is often the case that companies from the continent do this type of work so much better than those in the UK and this is once again true. It has a simplicity which engages, a drive which enriches and a narrative which is expansive. For children’s theatre, this is therefore in the category of being traditionally captivating if not radically envisioned.