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Emily Rising

Dan Reballato
Little Angel Theatre & Goblin
Little Angel Theatre

Emily Rising: Emily at school Credit: Ellie Kurttz
Emily Rising: Emily Credit: Ellie Kurttz
Emily Rising: The Teacher Credit: Ellie Kurttz
Emily Rising: The Social Worker Credit: Ellie Kurttz
Emily Rising: Mum and Robert Credit: Ellie Kurttz

This lively puppet show is all about Emily. She is ten years old and lives in London with her mum and a younger brother, Robbie. Her parents are separated so dad has his own place, but he regularly sees Emily and Robbie.

That makes life a little more complicated but Emily is happy and like any other ten-year-old girl, though quite stylish. She wears her hair in two buns; Robbie likes to think himself Superman and has a Mohican streak while mum has a high hair look.

But then something strange happens and Emily isn’t so ordinary. She wakes up one morning and something amazing happens. She can’t put her feet on the ground! Try hard as she does they won’t touch it, she’s hovering just above it.

It's strange but she’s not frightened because its fun.

Rachael Champion has designed a set with scenic elements that can be Emily’s bedroom or her school desk, her bedroom window, the garden path and a fence that can instantly become a doctor’s table turned vertical. There are TV dishes round the lower edges and what could be space satellites up above.

The puppeteers come on and greet the audience and then bring on a long roll of plastic which stretches out to be a great sheet of ice that Emily is dreaming of, a lake frozen over with a boy and a girl under the water. She tries to drill through it to free them but the sound of the drill becomes her alarm clock and wakes her up.

That’s when it happens: or is she still dreaming?

Her mum Sarah takes Emily to the doctor but he says she’s not ill, recommends filling her pockets and eating lots of potatoes and prescribes an aspirin twice a day assuring her she’ll touch down by nightfall.

But she doesn’t.

Mum makes her a bed on the ceiling but after a night being pressed up against it she is still rising. Mum sends her out of the window with a rope tied to her leg to make sure she doesn’t float far away.

After brother Robbie tells his teacher about her being tied up, a social worker from the child protection unit calls round and then a helicopter is sent up to bring her down. That doesn’t work out: Emily goes on rising. It is bonfire night so they send up fireworks to amuse her (a simply staged sequence that is especially pleasing), though it gets him into trouble.

Still she goes higher and higher. Don’t ask practical questions about the thin air up there or the temperature: Emily is enjoying it. This is an adventure that is just beginning; you’ll have to imagine she’ll have ways of overcoming any such problems.

There is good characterisation from Peyvand Sadeghian playing Emily, Yana Penrose as her mother and David Emmings as Robbie, his dad and the doctor while operating the puppets created by Alison Alexander with versions of different scale to match situation. The family are naturalistic but the other characters fantasticated and funny.

While the plot is simple, all contained in the title, it provides an opportunity to touch lightly on the problems of family break-up, bureaucratic interference and the idea of accepting difference. You could even see it as a metaphor for saying goodbye to things as you grow up.

Director Oliver Hymans handles things gently, bringing out the humour and reflecting Emily’s own positive attitude but this is a show aimed at age seven and up. It is not recommended for younger children who would not so easily identify with Emily or follow its issues.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton