Mucky Pup. The egg Theatre, Bath
Rarely does a show seem so perfectly formed. Music, lighting, acting and action all combined to create 55 minutes of beautifully balanced theatre for primary school aged children. Theatre Alibi’s artistic director Nikki Sved blended the arts and disciplines of theatre to bring Daniel Jamieson’s story of OCD Ben’s social transformation to life in a touching, humorous and bitter-sweet ensemble production.
Two aspects stood out: the overall combination of all the elements to give tone, emotion and pace especially with Dominic Jeffery’s lighting and Thomas Johnson’s music played by pianist Lucia Sanchez de Haro, plus the wonderful comic chemistry between Chatty (Simon Palmer) and Ben (Samuel Clayton). Clayton’s portrayal of the cleanliness obsessive Ben gripped the young audience from the start. There were several over excited children in the stalls who were very boisterous before the lights dimmed but who became engrossed with the story as soon it opened in the swimming pool where Ben’s social isolation was revealed.
Clayton’s strongest sequences were those telling sections where his vulnerability were revealed. The bully who rubs him in the mud, his desire to make friends and his heart to hearts with his mum (Cerianne Roberts). Roberts gave excellent support through a range of characters including Noggin the park kid, the head teacher and Ben’s frustrated mother trying to do the right thing.
Palmer was dog-tastic as the eponymous Mucky Pup, grabbing the children’s attention with his frisky body language, doggy dialogue and facial expressions gleaned from a thousand playful pups everywhere. A canine object lesson in character acting through body language alone.
Performed in Trina Bramman’s expressive splash-like set Mucky Pup neatly explores so many of those early human experiences we all suffer and also enjoy. Playfulness, fear, danger, loneliness, friendship, parental love, and the changes we go through as we discover life isn’t as straight forward as we’d hoped – with a little help from a dog.
Harry Mottram Five stars
Reviewed Friday 7 November 2014
The show is currently on tour – for full details visit www.theatrealibi.co.uk
To see more reviews and news of children’s theatre go to www.childrenstheatremagazine.co.uk