Pucqui Collaborative’s Changelings is a thoughtful story about two very different existences colliding and attempting to translate one another. Totally immersed in the midst of a deep jungle and surrounded by birdsong and running water, we encounter the meeting of Mowgli (Nicole Palomba) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s Puck (Robin Ian HallSmith), a character displaced from his usual forest haunt to a less familiar but no less magical setting. He grants Mowgli the ability to communicate with him, and so follows fifty minutes only occasionally let down by a slowing in pace and dialogue which made the production feel heavy at times.

The production creates its own bubble of time and space, outside of any familiar timeline, which is part of what makes it so charming.

Palomba in the role of Mowgli is entertaining and touching – although the growls and snarls she adds into her speech are sometimes silly, ultimately the inclusion of animalistic noises undermines the power of conventional human language and draws attention to the validity of other modes of existence. The high, pathetic howl which Mowgli lets out to express the feeling of being exiled from his pack could be a more accurate representation of sadness than the word “sadness” itself is; ‘“sad” is too small’, he says.

HallSmith’s swaggering know-it-all Puck jelled well with this boyish Mowgli – Puck's arrogance had the suggestion of a youthfulness and naivety, too. Indeed, their compatibility was the soul of the performance. The gradual understanding and friendship which builds throughout is nuanced and genuinely heart-warming, achieved through small moments like the throwing and catching of stars from the night sky, a simply lovely interaction executed with fluid physicality and playfulness. A production which begins with difference ends with an expression of what it is that links humanity – a desire to have family, to run with a pack. This togetherness could have been rushed and sickly, but I think what pulled it back was the naivety of Palomba’s Mowgli with the initial reluctance and arrogance of HallSmith’s Puck.

The production creates its own bubble of time and space, outside of any familiar timeline, which is part of what makes it so charming. The focus is purely on the heart breaking self-consciousness and depth of the characters, even when lacking an intricate context or timeline. A playful exploration of existence and reality is achieved through the very human experience of Mowgli as Puck helps him realise that he, too, is a story. – In the end, aren’t we all?

Reviews by Chloe-Louise Saunders

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The Blurb

Deep in the forest, exactly at twilight, a young but fierce child meets a magical creature with a mysterious hidden agenda. Two classic characters, ethereally re-imagined, collide in a twistingly post-modern, Shakespeare-versus-Kipling fairy tale.

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