Monday 28 February 2011

A rainbow of umbrellas

And the Rain Falls Down, Young Vic, London

Despite its preoccupation with precipitation, there’s nothing wet about Fevered Sleep’s latest show for pre-schoolers. And the Rain Falls Down is a beautifully crisp and giddily enthusiastic little piece that will leave you beaming.

In front of cotton wool clouds that hang from a washing line, Karina Garnett and Carl Patrick frolic in various jets of water. Sometimes they catch single drips, sending smaller droplets splattering off like glimmering splinters; sometimes, they withstand a torrent, laughing as water clatters off their heads. At one point, totally unexpectedly, a fountain spouts from a plughole on the floor.

There’s less substance to And the Rain Falls Down than could be found in Brilliant, the second in the company’s trilogy exploring everyday childhood rituals. Here, springing out of bathtime, there’s just play for play’s sake, but it looks like such fun that, by the time the sprinklers start, you’re itching to whip your shoes and socks off and join them in the downpour. The consolation for adults is that a stage full of knee-high children, all under umbrellas, soaked and splashing is a pleasure to watch.

Most commendable is Fevered Sleep’s commitment to their actual audience, rather than those watching over them. This is not merely theatre for children, but children’s theatre in the fullest sense. The specially made auditorium is child-sized, meaning that adult knees almost reach adult shoulders. Stepping in feels rather like striding into Lilliput. But the scale certainly shifts the dynamic; there is none of the imposing architecture that can scar early theatrical experiences.

If that indicates attention paid, David Harradine’s production is mindful at every point. Each moment is presented to its fullest potential. A rubber duck swimming across the stage, later returning with a string of rubber ducklings in tow, is given time and space enough to mystify and delight. Ali Beale’s design (in tandem with Harradine) is bright and breezy, getting right underneath the weather’s effect on moods. There’s a rainbow of umbrellas and an egg-yolk sun. At one point huge droplets, like meteorological symbols, glide slowly down suggesting a shower in slow-motion. Add in David Leahy’s cello score, lurching and bouncing jauntily, and the whole thing clicks together perfectly.

Till 12 March 2011.


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