With only a week to go until the big day, am I the only one feeling more frazzled than festive? I do love the run-up to Christmas, but it’s easy to get overloaded, with a list of presents to buy and places to be that would make Father Christmas quail.
Like most parents, I want this time of year to be special for my child. So I spent the weekend irritably telling him to go and play, while I made a gingerbread house (I know, I know … what possessed me?) and a battery-operated Santa circled my kitchen playing the theme tune to Benny Hill. So much for the season of peace and goodwill.
With my Yuletide preparations turning into the nightmare before Christmas, James and I were clearly in need of a change of scene, and ‘Poggle’ at Perth Theatre sounded like just the ticket. Poggle is a dance theatre performance suitable for children under five, showing twice daily until Sunday 22nd December. It is a Barrowland Ballet and Macrobert Arts Centre co-production, with choreographer and director Natasha Gilmore. I hardly knew what to expect from Poggle – the title doesn’t give much away – but James and I were both excited to try something new.
On arrival at the theatre, we found puzzles, coloured pencils and paper laid out at the studio entrance. A thoughtful touch for those with small children who need some distraction while they wait. I knew that Poggle wasn’t going to be ordinary!Once the doors opened, the room quickly filled up, with younger audience members mainly occupying cushions on the floor, or low bench seats. Adults were seated just behind and the wide semi-circle layout meant everyone had a clear view. As I gazed at the gently illuminated set, I saw one actor sitting on stage playing the clarinet, while another wandered about tidying up the audience with a feather duster. I think that was when I knew that Poggle wasn’t going to be ordinary!
The action began with a bottom in the air, instantaneous laughter from the children (on whom, it’s safe to say, physical comedy is never wasted) and we were drawn straight into a different world. The simple but effective scenery transported us to an enchanted forest, with movable elements in the set design aiding the narrative.
James was alert and watching every step as our protagonist – Vince – began to explore this magical woodland. He started his journey timidly, but filled with curiosity and wonder. Without words, but through dance, music and comedy, Vince expressed his trepidation and excitement. Bells and bubbles kept the youngsters entranced, with drumbeats and song providing an upbeat tempo.
When Vince meets the fey creature Poggle, their fascination with each other is endearing and funny. As they become acquainted, they fill the stage with balletic, often gymnastic, dance movements. Our story develops into a heart-warming tale of friendship and acceptance. Vince must face his fears, but doing so is always so much easier with a friend to cheer you on.
As always with children’s theatre, those watching are not shy about responding to what they see. Vince’s efforts were encouraged with shouts of “Come on, you can do it!” and the ever-present musical backdrop inspired plenty of clapping along. At one point, the actors moved among the audience, an interaction which the kids simply loved.
With a running time of less than an hour, parents need not worry that their young culture vultures may not last the distance. Poggle is short and sweet, and caters perfectly for pre-school attention spans. However, for a little show, Poggle has a big heart. I was impressed by the way weighty themes were handled with such a light touch. We saw the importance of helping others, overcoming obstacles, and rejoicing together. It seemed apt, for this time of year.
This uplifting story plays out amidst the beauty of the natural world. A bewitching faery tale, it was just the calming tonic that I needed. James was hesitant, at first, about participating in the more interactive sections of the piece. But the enthusiasm of his peers soon won him over.
All too soon, it was time to take my own little wood nymph back to nursery. After such an entertaining morning, I felt quite revived. Just as well … I’ve got gingerbread roof repairs to tackle. As we approach the sharp end of advent, I highly recommend that children take their grown-ups to de-frazzle in Poggle’s excellent company.
Poggle is showing twice daily at Perth Theatre until Sunday 22nd December. Look out for more children’s shows upcoming in 2020!
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