There is nothing wrong with the message of this show from the Italian company, Scarlattineteatro, but then neither is it particularly original. Pasquale is different from others: born with vampire teeth, he is victim to bullies, his physical oddness marking him out as Other and making it hard for him to fit in and gain acceptance. Along comes Lala, another hapless target of bullies - her large eyes make her the object of ridicule. After attempting to mask their differences - Pasquale hides his teeth behind a purple scarf, Lala wears big orange sunglasses - the children decide to start a revolution to stop the bullies, eventually growing up and escaping their inauspicious beginnings and learning self-acceptance. So far, so typical.
There are problems with this production. One obvious point is that this is not ‘all-ages theatre’: it is performed in rhyme, with heavy accents, plenty of grunts, and some Italian. I struggled to understand quite what was going on at times. The actors are also pretty frightening - not least because their movements are jerky and unpredictable, but also because of their bizarre facial expressions. The parents in front of me were continually reassuring their children - evidently, they were concerned that they were not enjoying the experience. Evoking commedia dell'arte is all very laudable but I couldn’t help but feel that instead of advancing plot and character, such exaggerated movements and vivid gesticulation was gratuitous - it was wackiness for the sake of it, with no apparent rationale behind it. I could also have done without the mist clouding up the yurt - disorientating and again, unnecessary.
However, a lot of thought has gone into producing Little Creepy Wonders. The script, although at times indecipherable, has comic moments. I particularly liked the mother’s discussion with the doctor - ‘He’s precocious...probably not ferocious’ - and the cast of Giulietta Debernardi, Anna Fascendini, Marco Mazzo work well together. I was also rather charmed by the scarcity of props and the use of balloons to represent Pasquale and Lala - their personalities defined by stuck-on drawings of savage teeth and bulbous eyes. Bullying was well-portrayed by two actors waving sticks with masses of balloons attached through the air. This was a case where unpredictable and violent movements - one balloon popped - added to plot, and felt entirely appropriate, and also visually arresting. There was also some effective use of animation as images of a dream were projected on to Pasquale’s bedsheet - he dreams of having no teeth.
All in all, there is just enough to wonder at to make it worthwhile, but unfortunately, it’s also far from wonderful, and certainly not enough to get your teeth stuck into.