Gentle and well-meaning,
Succeeds in introducing children to basic French
Performer Tania Czajka begins by revealing her prize carrot, which she is growing in hopes of entering the Tastiest Carrot Competition. Unfortunately, Lapin the Rabbit and other creatures of the garden are far more interested in having a nibble themselves. This is as far as the plot goes.
The rest of the show involves Czajka, who also acts as the puppeteer for all the creatures, stopping their repetitive attempts to eat her carrot. Repeated musical leitmotifs are used to great effect as each is associated with an individual creature, assisting the children in keeping track of the animals if they have trouble associating them with their French names. Indeed the whole sound design from Nik Paget-Tomlinson and Niroshini Thambar is gorgeous, with well-chosen background sounds accompanying the music. The set, designed by Iain Halket, is similarly impressive. It is simple but effective, being both utilitarian and pleasing to look at.
But ultimately, there was more that needed to be done to fully capture the imagination of the children. There was no meaningful audience interaction until the last 10 minutes of the show and I feel this needed to be introduced a lot earlier. Up until that point, many of the children in the audience had been slightly restless. Czajka is a charming and entertaining performer, but a second actor or second puppeteer would have allowed a more engaging dynamic to develop onstage. Trying to simultaneously act, teach French and puppeteer at the same time ultimately means she is stretched too thin. A dedicated puppeteer would have freed her and allowed her to reach her full potential.
The setup is perhaps a bit too simple for 7-8 year olds, the top bracket of the show’s advertised age range. With a slow pace, the show feels very sleepy and a bit too gentle to properly engage its audience. That having been said, the production succeeds in introducing children to basic French and is certainly recommendable in that regard.
With a bit more content and a bit more ambition, this could be a show to watch out for in the future.