“Poggle’s not scared of climbing trees,” we’re told early on in this beautifully clear and uncluttered piece of vibrant dance theatre aimed at very young children. Set in a pine forest – the backdrop of which is made out of a wall of 19 big building blocks – we are first entranced by the lyrical music played by composer Daniel Padden, who’s sitting on the set like some wandering minstrel as we come in. Then we’re introduced to the welcoming Vince Virr, initially rushing around the audience with his duster, before leaping head-first into the small box which represents his home. He has a slice of bread, but no honey to spread on it; when he sees a bee, he’s determined to follow it into the woods. There, he meets the mischievous woodland creature Poggle – a delightful Jade Adamson – who not only helps him find the honey but also overcome his fear of climbing trees, squelching in mud, playing and making new friends.
Poggle is an exciting piece of theatre for toddlers and young children which doesn’t stretch youngsters’ attention spans too far.
Choreographed and directed by Natasha Gilmore, the two dancers’ movements are expansive, bold and capture perfectly those of small children; the pair appear perfectly balanced in a routine full of rhythmic, percussive patterns which, in Padden’s case, are enhanced by Alison Brown's cleverly-textured pine cone costume for Poggle which is augmented with small bells. Both Virr and Adamson take full advantage of the space available to them, and their physical exuberance is undoubtedly contagious if some of the bobbing toddlers in the front row are anything to go by. It is quite a loud show, however; very young babies might well find that a bit scary.
That’s not to underestimate the impressiveness of the overall production; the set of building blocks, for example, are constantly moved and stacked in new patterns, and many are revealed to be filled with animals and items from the forest. Indeed, the audience – especially the children – are invited to explore the nooks and crannies of these blocks at the close of the show, encouraging them to overcome their own doubts and fears of “climbing the tree”. Talk about “immersive” theatre!
Overall, Poggle is an exciting piece of theatre for toddlers and young children which doesn’t stretch youngsters’ attention spans too far.