If ever there was a ‘Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ for kids…this is it.
Energy, imagination, a fizzing script and three ever-so-bouncy actors are the exciting ingredients of this dashing and delightful family show…that’s almost scary enough to wet the audiences’ pants; but not quite. (And that’s just the grown-ups).
Bereft of any props what-so-ever (apart from a policeman’s helmet) it is remarkable what the cast can do with their bodies to imply that not all is well with their world … as they turn hands into sonic screwdrivers and do a perfectly plausible impression of falling through space.
What they do have to work with is a fabulous, circular space-capsule theatre with 627 individual LED lights in its ceiling … with which Peter Small creates a million-trillion-willion lighting cues, immaculately synchronised to Dominic Kennedy’s jokey space-age sound track. Together they make more than one passing reference to the five famous tones in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’.
Meanwhile Georgia Christou’s whacky script speaks direct to children who are prepared to consider the possibility that “asking questions rots your teeth” and “bad behaviour makes you ears go mouldy”. And the very idea that human children are the greatest threat to alien species and therefore must be eaten, is simply glorious.
We are told at the outset that this adventure has no happy ending…and the beginning is pretty disconcerting too. Mum has gone missing. In the middle of the night.
She’s left a note and her compact mirror…neither of which are terribly helpful to 12-year-old Jelly and her older cousin Jon Jo in their search for her.
Rather than end up in an orphanage they accept an invitation to live with an aunt they never knew that had…and soon wish they hadn’t. Flame-haired, purple-pullovered Katherine Pearce is quite brilliant as the so-called Aunt Leena, who is desperately trying to hide her alien pedigree, which keeps twitching to the surface. Charlotte O’Leary’s Welsh Jelly is a loveable pig-tailed Tom Boy who is smarter than Jack Wilkinson’s older cousin would like to believe. He’s supposed to be rather more sensible, when he’s not communing with his runaway pet stunt-spider, Albert.
All three move around the mini-arena marvellously, throwing themselves into a sequence of scenarios with unbridled enthusiasm and lightning speed.
Christou’s crazy concepts embrace every age group. The lines about French Koala Bears (“in a zoo, silly”) and how weird Aunt Leana must be the love child of ET and Pinocchio constantly tickle the funny bone.
It’s a highly entertaining and utterly exhausting 55 minutes that made me wish I was five years old all over again.
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