The Jabberwocky

Lewis Carroll’s ‘The Jabberwocky’ is to my mind one of the best works of literature to get children playing with language and at tempting their young imaginations. Its nonsense verse creates an ocean of associations and possibilities for a child to explore. Pop-Up Productions – and in particular writer/director Suzy Enoch - seem to share in this assessment, and in this lovely and involving piece of theatre, play all sorts of games of their own, creating colourful characters and exotic beasts to bring the movement and majesty of this great poem to life.The play centres around a little boy named Jack, cross-cast with a female actor – the immediately endearing Felicity Allen – in the pantomime tradition. Jack’s mum reads him Carroll’s poem as he goes to sleep. He doesn’t understand all the words, dismissing them as nonsense. But then his dream, and an excellent supporting cast of physical actors, transports him into the world of the poem, along with his toy rabbit, who – of course – comes to life. There he discovers the mysterious creatures – the excitable slithy toves, the little tennis ball-like borogoves and sinister Bandersnatch – and, with the assistance of the young audience, the world forms into all sorts of wonderful and creative shapes and sizes around the language of the poem.But like the poem, it is not necessarily stable or fixed, and the company, for the most part, avoid closing the options available for the children’s imagination. What does it mean to gyre and gimble? What does it mean to be mimsy? No one Jack speaks to seems to know – he has to work it out for himself. The discussions on language have an accessibility and intelligence worthy of Carroll himself, and there are plenty of clever little asides alluding to the Rabbit’s disappearing offstage apparently to join in the plot of Alice in Wonderland – rewarding references for the brighter kids to pick up on. Whilst the audience are frequently involved and spoken to, I wish the company could have found a way of using the children to create the Jabberwocky itself – it is somehow too simple to see it take a physical shape chosen for them, given all the talk of fiction, imagination and ambiguity that has gone before. The shape it finally took, though, was suitably large and impressive and made for a dramatic conclusion to Jack’s adventure.The beauty of this production is that it delivers the skill and creativity to keep an audience – young or old – completely captivated whilst leaving plenty of room for exploration and fun. At one point the children present are encouraged to make their own portmanteaus to describe the Jabberwocky – I’ve got a few for the show: delightivating, creatiful and downright fantilliant.

Reviews by Tom Moyser

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theSpace @ Jury's Inn

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Summerhall

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Summerhall

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★★★★★

The Blurb

Young Jack is fascinated by the story of 'The Jabberwocky', but he doesn't understand all the mysterious words ... until he starts to dream. A play about language, imagination, courage and dragons. For more info visit: www.popupproductions.org.uk