There are some shows that you just get a good feeling about from the moment you step into the theatre. With its quirky pipes-and-cases semi-industrial set,
This isn’t just excellent children’s theatre, it’s excellent theatre full-stop.
Moments later, the performers stride on stage and my anticipation is confirmed as Samuel Jameson pulls out a Quark (the furry Pac-Man-like puppets which narrate the show) and begins to set the scene. He introduces our hero Larry, beautifully puppeted and voiced by Ailie Cohen. Larry is a conscientious but slightly dull and fussy man, always so busy at his desk that he has no time for fun. Until, that is, someone leaves a suitcase by his door; a suitcase which, when opened, starts him off on the journey to discover the true meaning of life.
Throughout, the show is packed with delightful touches like the soberly-suited performers removing their jackets to reveal a backdrop for each new scene or the suitcases coming to glorious life. The use of puppetry naturally helps keep the younger audience’s attention but it’s also done incredibly skillfully – Cohen, in particular, invests the simple rod and ball puppet that is Larry with such humanity and character that it’s impossible not to empathise with him throughout his journey.
What's particularly charming is that, although this is a show for youngish children, it never talks down to them. Advanced ideas and themes are woven throughout the story. Quarks aren't just called that because it sounds funny – they really are everywhere and everything; quantum engineers, tasked with ensuring that everything in the universe gets just the push it needs at the right time to help reality run like clockwork.
The Scottish Storytelling Centre is by no means small but The Secret Life of Suitcases held every child (and every adult) present rapt with attention. This isn’t just excellent children’s theatre, it’s excellent theatre full-stop.