Exciting, emotional and, most importantly, entertaining, Margo and Mr Whatsit is the tale of eight-and-a-half-year-old Sophia and her imaginary friend Mr Whatsit, an inseparable duo until the time comes for Sophia to grow up and take on a new, more mature imaginary friend – Margo.
The three actors were superbly talented and had the audience wrapped up in the story from the very start
Sophia (Katy Dash) is a young girl in foster care, with pictures of her previous foster homes above her bed as she is constantly searching for her forever home. Mr Whatsit (Michael Smith) is the imaginary friend who’s been with her through thick and thin. However, Sophia has decided that Mr Whatsit belongs to the past and, as the show begins, we watch as Sophia carefully places Mr Whatsit into the closet, seemingly to never return. She then turns her attention to her new, improved imaginary friend, Margo – a prissy, punctilious and prim Hattie Brown.
The three actors were superbly talented and had the audience wrapped up in the story from the very start. It was a joy to watch Sophia, Mr Whatsit, and Margo weave their way through the multi-levelled plot.
Alongside the excellent three actors, the other star of the show was certainly the set, a fantastic creation which started off as a child’s bed before ending as spacecraft in the grand finale. Along the way there were slides and steps, hidden lights and a whole manner of ingenious contraptions. A superb construction and one that added to the imagination rather than leaving everything up to it.
Paddleboat Theatre’s script successfully weaved between the story of Mr Whatsit & Margo whilst playing a deft touch with the subjects of Sophia’s fostering and her desire to finally settle down. There’s moments of poignancy as we learn more about Sophia’s past and the stories of the pinned-up houses above her head.
As with most children’s shows, there’s audience interaction involved. However, this is, perhaps, one of the weaker aspects. Children were invited onto the stage, but rarely involved in the action and there’s probably much more that could be done here. Rather than questioning the kids on stage, I’d recommend using them as props or in more interactive scenes. Having shy kids on stage by themselves isn’t going to lead to quality material or a great sense of involvement. The better interactive moments came when the audience were involved as a whole.
It’s an entertaining show that, to its credit, doesn’t labour the foster-care plot too heavily and leaves the audience to draw its own conclusions. It was hard to judge how well received it was by all ages in the audience, however I had a slight suspicion that, whilst the children certainly enjoyed this magical tale, it didn’t wrap them up as much as the adults.
Like any good tale, we’re left rooting for our heroes and hoping that all ends happily after all. Paddleboat Theatre don’t disappoint with this and I doubt you’ll be surprised by the happy ending. Certainly one to recommend and a pleasure, whatever age you are.