Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Let's Fly

Devised by the company
A co-production by Little Angel Theatre & Goblin
Little Angel Theatre

Emily and a seagull Credit: Ellie Kurttz
The set for Let's Fly with Emily in the Moon surrounded by planets and stars Credit: Ellie Kurttz
Emily and a parrot Credit: Ellie Kurttz
Performer and puppeter Shakera Louise Ahad Credit: Ellie Kurttz

This is a forty-minute puppet piece, devised by the company, that Little Angel has aimed at the 2 to 6 age group.

It starts in the auditorium before the lights go down with actor-puppeteer Shakera Louise Ahad blowing bubbles that float through the air for the kids to catch before a big balloon appears from up in the control box for everyone to bounce over their heads from row to row.

On stage, Alison Alexander’s setting is just silvery grey shapes. Later, they will be covered with colourful cloths depicting underwater ocean and alpine peaks. In fact, the structures are from this show’s companion piece for older children, Emily Rising, and Emily herself is the central character in this show too.

When all the audience have had their turn with the balloon, Shakera, up on stage, points to the writing on her satchel and reads out, “Can It Fly?” These are the only words in the whole performance, though there is lots of visual and vocal communication.

First, she takes a piece of paper out of her satchel and waves it about. “No” is the answer that she gets and Shakera’s expression adds disappointed confirmation, but, when she tears it up into little pieces and throws them up in the air, things are different: they flutter downwards.

Now she turns away (don’t peek!) and makes a paper dart that flies over heads straight to the eighth row. The satchel produces a small loop for blowing the tiniest bubbles and a balloon is found in a pocket and blown up, but it soon loses its air.

Just in time, another balloon turns up fully blown up. It isn’t enough to float away with but, when Shakera finds a whole bunch of them, that nearly does it—and then actress turns into puppeteer and Emily appears floating through the air holding on to a bunch of balloons that are carrying her skywards.

Emily (whose size keeps changing to match the setting we see her in) goes on her travels exploring a bird's nest, taking a rest on a cloud, diving under the ocean, flying over mountain tops, getting a lift on the back of a seagull, coming down to Earth again over London with its Big Ben, Tower Bridge, London Eye and other landmarks—she even makes her way up into the moon and brings some stars down from the sky.

This isn’t especially elaborate puppetry. Its effect comes partly from its simplicity and the way that it makes a child use their own imagination as they do when they play with their own toys. Despite the pre-show effort at involvement and sometimes bringing the performance back into the auditorium, there is not yet quite enough of a bond with the audience, that connection that is an important part of all theatre and surely essential with a young audience. It certainly didn’t reach as far as the back row.

Perhaps it just needs the show to run in, perhaps it was just the pressure of a press show, but it needs to move from performance to something that feels more like sharing.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton