Ludlow Fringe Festival 2019
Known to generations of film lovers, the 1956 classic The Red Balloon comes to the stage through the talents of the award-winning Lucky Dog duo. Their lovely retelling of this story loses nothing in its realisation for the stage from the screen.
The short film Le Ballon Rouge (The Red Balloon) was made in 1956 by the film maker AlbertLamorisse and featured his own children Pascal and Sabine in the main roles. Filmed in a romantic and shattered post-war Paris it is the tale of a young boy befriended by a red balloon which takes on a will of its own and follows Pascal through the streets, on the bus and into school. The metaphor of hope is clear from the start as the brightly coloured red balloon contrasts with the grey exterior of a war-ravaged city. Inevitably perhaps the forces of evil (other street boy gangs) set out to destroy Pascal’s other-worldy friend and as the film comes to its sad climax with the boys destroying the balloon with one slingshot, miraculously all the balloons of Paris release themselves from children and balloon sellers and gather to be with Pascal mourning his lost ‘friend’. As he grasps their strings, the balloons carry the boy up above the ruins of the city, bringing an almost religious message of hope and redemption.
With such a simple tale it would be easy to overlook the skill of the writing of taking a film with almost no dialogue (the teacher shouting “Silence!” at his unruly pupils is the only line of dialogue in the original film!) to a stage show requiring a narrative. But in the hands of Lucky Dog this is easily realised and we are guided through the story with ease.
Lucky Dog duo knew they were handling a classic so their take on it employs their charming double-act rivalry to place us firmly in the theatre and not necessarily out on the streets of post-war Paris. This is no sleight of hand as the charm of the story itself is compounded by our own compassion towards their ineptitude getting the show moving. Throughout the show one character will refuse to don a wig to represent the little girl in the film (who befriends Pascal and her blue equivalent balloon) and on other occasions an inappropriate prop will only add to the mayhem. There is a lovely duality between these two and their tetchiness and undermining tactics employed on each other are very funny indeed. At times this seems like a show within a show where we are focussed on them rather than the story itself. A familiar theatrical ploy but here used with ease and poise.
Supported by sounds masterminded by Aaron Clapp, Lucky Dog use minimum everyday stage props, joke spectacles and moustaches and straw-plaited doll wigs – and of course balloons – to keep us within the light-hearted charming world of the film essentially made for children and the humour inevitably springs from their use and mis-use.
A completely family-friendly production, this charming tale is brought to the stage with energy and zest and it can only be to Lucky Dog’s credit if it makes people leave the theatre and seek out the original film. They will not be disappointed.