While enduring various operas and entertainments marketed at children I have sometimes wondered if the librettist, composer and director had ever seen a child. Thankfully this was not the case here but the litmus test of taking a child revealed much.
Entranced by Jonathon Oxlade's set of 'Beep' by Windmill Theatre Company – a house in a tree, bearing fruit and opening windows to reveal its amusing occupants – and attracted by the clear diction and engaging manner of Antoine Jelk, Kileah-Nadine Williams and Ezra Juanta, the puppeteer-narrators, the kids leant forward to absorb the show. Children love repetition and variation within that repetition, so they were held for the first quarter of an hour, liking Tamara Rewse's fuzzy, cuddly creatures and their acrobatics as they repeated their morning routine. The technical brilliance of the puppeteering and the precise timing of Luke Smiles's sound and sound effects dazzled and enchanted the audience.
The appearance of the title character Beep, a robot-like creature from a burned up planet, disengaged them. The message that groups need to welcome newcomers, be they refugees, people with alternative lifestyles or merely new kids in the playground was fairly obvious to adults but the show was marketed as suitable for children aged one to seven and such concepts might have been over their heads. The word "planet" might have been over many of their heads, especially if "burned up planet" referred to the real threat of global warming.
Image © Shane Reid
'There is no such thing as a straight line in nature' and Beep's metallic body was all straight lines. Her eyes, glowing lights, were not easy to look at. Moreover, she didn't speak except in beeps. As soon as she entered my grandson said, "robot." After a long section of beeps and noises my granddaughter fidgeted and complained, "no talking." She, at an age when children are wired to pick up language, was annoyed because no one was talking.
The actors resorted to a sure-fire panto routine. The audience loved this and gave themselves "a pat on the back" with hearty applause. The show came to a rapid close with Beep being accepted by her new playmates.
My granddaughter said she liked going to the theatre and would like to go again to see something else.
If the section of speech by blips were shortened, Katherine Fyffe's promising show could appeal more.