An hour and a half sounds like a long time to keep a group of children entertained for. However, this performance of a traditional Russian fairytale by Purves Puppets works like a miniature theatre going experience, with a 15 minute interval, scene changes and programmes for sale. Add on to that time to meet the puppets at the end and the time that children are actually required to sit silently in their seats for is relatively small.
Not that it would be a problem for the company, one imagines, if they were required to entertain the crowd for the entire time of their allotted show. This is a company which appears to have a lot of experience dealing with the young and are able to cause ripples of giggles through the crowd just through the comical antics of a mischevious puppet. They have enough audience involvement to pique the interest of the group but this ties in nicely to the authentic theatre experience such as through getting the children to ‘blow out’ the lights before the performance begins in order to create that darkened room necessary for the show to go on.
If that was not enough, there is something magical about Purves Puppets; it is practically impossible to see the puppeteers and, as befits this tale of sorcery, characters will sometimes appear onstage from nowhere while even stone statues come to life.
This folktale includes many classic tropes but the production has also introduced some modern touches, perhaps to appeal to the older audience in a slightly knowing way, with meta comments about fairytales and by leaving the relationship of the prince and princess unresolved at the end.
The scene changes could have been done more smoothly – as it is, the curtain is drawn and we are left waiting in a slightly awkward fashion for them to reopen. In this case, the music which was used so well throughout the rest of the play could have perhaps been used to greater effect. Furthermore, although Purves Puppets bill their glow in the dark puppets as one of their key selling points, I find that it looks a little jarring, especially in contrast to the traditional nature of the tale.
However, these are small concerns. This show would be ideal for anyone who wants to introduce their children to the world of theatre in a more miniaturised marionette form.