With all the charm of a CBeebies show after too much chocolate, the show could turn out to be a solid choice for young children.
The story follows young child Masarin, father Loranga and Grandfather Dartanjang growing as a family, whilst simultaneously trying to deal with their grumpy next door neighbor, an unscrupulous thief, and the mass of tigers living in their barn. Based on the Swedish children’s book of the same name by Barbro Lindgren, the narrative is made up of a patchwork of quirky vignettes that happily embrace their nonsensical nature. While these have an undeniable charm, they suffer due to the characterisation of the main protagonists. Masarin, Loranga and Dartanjang show little growth for much of the play, a fact that results in them soon becoming grating, something which may prove to be a problem for parents. There is only so many times you can watch characters repeat the same patterns before you get bored. Children may have less of a problem with this, as the situations soon escalate to such peak levels of wackiness that they will likely keep your young one engaged.
Unfortunately, there were no children in the audience on the date I attended, so it is hard to gauge accurately how enjoyable the show would be for its intended audience; that is, kids. Interaction with the audience was evidently tailored towards children however, with Masarin talking to us directly throughout the show, as well as having more bubbles, elastic bands and confetti cannons shot out into the crowd than you could shake a stick at.
However, towards the end of the play things soon take a sharp left turn. The irresponsibility of Loranga as a father is brought to the forefront, having been dismissed for much of the play. With his father having become a dog and run off, the abandoned Masarin decides to retreat and live with the tigers, where he too will never face any responsibilities. It is in these moments that the actor playing Masarin finds something that echoes much deeper than the rest of the play – the moment rings true with the sadness of a child coming to terms with the fallibility of their parent and the realization that they too, one day, will have to face a myriad of responsibilities.
One of the other main draws of the play is the set. Beautifully designed out of an array of cardboard boxes, the set is a story book come to life. This is enhanced further by the interesting use of lighting and sound design. In combination, these help make the show visually more interesting than your standard fringe fare for Children.
Flawed? Yes, but well thought-out art design and curious moments of introspection help to even out the narrative issues plaguing Loranga, Masarin and Dartanjang. With all the charm of a CBeebies show after too much chocolate, the show could turn out to be a solid choice for young children.