Friday, August 17, 2007

Little Red Things

Today I did one of those Fringe things I’ve been putting off for a long time. I washed some of my socks. But more importantly, in a way, I saw Little Red Things. I’d heard a lot about this Gomito Productions show, mainly because I spend a worryingly large percentage of my time in Bedlam and it’s a show that’s been coming back to Bedlam for I think three years now. And apparently the cast and crew are all lovely people who take care of wounded puppies. And a lack of any big venue pass means that the ‘other’ Fringe shows are financially dead to me. So my opinion’s as biased as fuck* but who’s isn’t these days? There are people who are paid to be apparently objective.

However it may be, I thought Little Red Things was a beautiful production that awakened a genuine feeling of joy and happiness in me*. It all stems from the six people involved who are positively beaming at every second, not in a pretend ‘hey guys, we’re gonna have some fun!’ way that ends in tears and blood for all, but in a way that is genuinely warm and inviting. These people were actually happy to be there and see me sitting in the audience! Acting of this calibre halfway through the Fringe is worthy of a standing ovation in the first place*.

More importantly cast and crew have a clear understanding of what they are trying to do and how they are going to do it. It isn’t a play, more of a story telling. In the traditional way like your dad used to tell you at night, or the worlds you constructed in your heads or from books. The actors introduce themselves directly to the audience as storytellers and go from there to construct the story. It’s a wonderfully honest approach that makes everything they do believable. You know the Talking Tree is two people under a cargo net, but they’ve told you it is so you forget about and just see the Talking Tree.

It’s labelled as a kid’s show but this is only because it appeals straight to that sense of wonderment and imagination that kids are full of but adults need performed in front of them to experience. The actors achieve this all through heartfelt conviction and imagination. It’s what makes the difference between a giant flying bird being a sheet flapped by two people while another holds the head and being a huge, soaring bird, gliding over the Forest of Inspiration, carrying child protagonist Tailor, lovingly played by Emily Hargreaves (not actually a child), on its back*.

Each character and setting is created from the most basic of props which are perfectly suited and manipulated to draw a whole set of unique characteristics. The supremo double act Here and There and the bug-eyed Owen were both utterly believable, but if there were a prize for cutest Fringe puppets, and Thor willing there never will be, it would have to go to the Little Red Things themselves. There are a couple of them living around the Bedlam Box Office to look out for and they’re the most encapsulating, enjoyable characters in the whole show, with their giant eyes and innovative design. It’s the actors who bring them to life too. I was wondering how the Little Red Things would work in animation, but they wouldn’t because when puppets are handled correctly your imagination blanks out the person controlling them. It’s one of the great things that theatre has over film; the tradition of the travelling story tellers who go from village to village, recounting tales and using basic props to help the audience create the images in their heads themselves.

And when it’s all poignantly accompanied by a touching piano score devised and performed by Phillipa Herrick I’m inevitably going to be weeping like a lanced baby. It’s true, I am. My eyes well up at this kind of thing. When it happens during Eastenders it’s plain embarrassing, but watching this it was because I cared, I was emotionally enthralled in a way that takes the kind of time, effort and skill that so many pieces lack but Little Red Things has at every turn.

From what little I overheard in the pub, they’re people who decided to set up the company and pursue that instead of University and judging from this it should pay off given how far they’ve come already. Like I say, I’m a biased person. There’ll be reviews out there to tell if you if it’s worthy of stars and there may be shows that are better, I just thought it was joyous and hope you do too so we can chat about how lovely it was over that drink you owe me.

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