Review | Laura Money
The Velveteen Rabbit has been delighting children for one hundred years firstly through Margery Williams‘ enchanting picture book and adapted for Spare Parts Puppet Theatre by Greg Lissaman in a stunning production that continues to charm audiences. Lissaman distills the essence of the unique story and gives it a modern twist that is able to be both contemporary and timeless – powerful writing indeed. Featuring stunning design by Zoe Atkinson, a sweeping score by Lee Buddle featuring some classic works, and passionate performances The Velveteen Rabbit is a simply beautiful production that should remain on stages constantly and is deserving of its place in Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s repertoire.
Atkinson’s set design is highly memorable – the stage is covered where curtains would traditionally be and black panels slide across to create a shadow puppet or toy theatre effect. This focusses attention on the smaller scale of the toy’s world where they are the lead characters – puppeteers wearing camouflage-like suits that blend in with the wallpaper or background. Director Philip Mitchell‘s style works in concert with Atkinson’s cleverly rendered nursery and hidden shrubbery realm, he uses different perspectives to great effect and with the panels create a storybook come to life. Along with Graham Walne‘s clever lighting design, the backgrounds take on a surreal quality. Performers Michael Barlow, Rebecca Bradley, Nick Pages-Oliver and Louis Spencer are all amazing, imbuing the already expressive puppets by Jiri Zmitko with humanity and distinct personalities. From the hilarious Bandito to the stoic and wise Horse each character comes to life with such vibrancy there is genuine heartbreak when something sinister befalls them. Bradley absolutely shines as both the little boy and the titular Velveteen Rabbit. The naiveite and pure essence of the rabbit is palpable as Bradley stuffs her heart and soul into the little puppet.
Spare Parts Puppet Theatre are leaders in charming children’s theatre for a reason. This stunning production of The Velveteen Rabbit is an enduring example of their ability to provide enchantment and pathos to children’s entertainment without losing engagement. This production is remarkably simple – creating ingenious perspectives (a vertical bed with large versions of the puppet’s heads framing the tableau is a brilliant moment), using existing classical music to render the scale of the toy’s world epic, and passionate performers who bring the charming characters to life – The Velveteen Rabbit embodies hope and love and it’s a top pick for this school holidays and many more to come.
The Velveteen Rabbit is enchanting audiences at The Spare Parts Puppet Theatre this school holidays until 23rd April 2022. TICKETS
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