The Tin Foil Astronaut

Kitchen Zoo

Arts Centre Washington

On 10 February 2018

Review by Peter Lathan

The other kids at Alba Dinkley’s school think she’s weird. They scoff at her and chant nasty things about her.

Her dad is a bit weird. He never goes out and wears his dressing gown all day—but he’s very good at cooking Alba’s favourite meal, fish fingers and beans.

Alba wants to be an astronaut. The Americans and the Russians are having a race to see who can get into space first and Alba wants to join in. The man on the tele thinks she’s just a silly little girl but the Man in the Moon, who’s much nicer, encourages her.

Alba has designed and built her own spaceship, powered by tin foil, and off she goes—further than the Americans and Russians put together. She even discovers a new planet out beyond Neptune where it’s so cold that her toes turn blue.

Bet you can’t guess what she calls it!

There’s a lot of science in the show, a lot of astronomy, and there’s music, too, and puppets. The 3- to 7-year-old audience get to clap along to the songs, to shout out to the actors and keep them right when they’re going wrong and, most important of all, provide the fuel for Alba’s spaceship.

At one point, Hannah Goudie, who plays Alba, came through the audience with a very long, flexible—well, cane I suppose it was—with a tiny version of her spaceship on the end, gold foil streaming behind like the flames from the rocket engine, high above the audience who are sat on the floor, and one little boy near me, who couldn’t have been more than four at the most, sat absolutely entranced, a smile of wonder on his face. He didn’t see Alba. He didn’t see the cane. He didn’t even see the theatre. All he saw was a spaceship flying over his head.

That's the power of well-done children's theatre.

There is more than enough variety in the show to keep the children interested and the play teaches them something important, and not in the academic, astronomy sense. They learn, through living her life with her, that being different like Alba, having different dreams from other people, is fine. And there was excitement, fun and wonder as they learned.

The Tin Foil Astronaut will tour from 12 April to 5 May. In the meantime Kitchen Zoo will tour a revival of The Owl and the Pussycat, starting at Northern Stage, Newcastle on Tuesday.

Kitchen Zoo is Hannah Goudie (Alba), Robert Nicholson (The Man on the Tele, The Man in the Moon) and musician Jeremy Bradfield, who plays Dad while providing accompanying music and the SciFi soundtrack. The show is directed by Ruth Johnson (The Owl and the Pussycat, Do Not Enter the Monster Zoo, and designed by Alison Ashton (Harriet Martineau Dreams of Dancing, The Savage, Heaven Eyes). They are mentored by playwright / director Laura Lindow (The War of the Worlds, Key Change). The touring stage manager is Rachel Glover.