The flood myth is common to most cultures and John Agard, originally from Guyana, gives it strong African undertones with lots of African resonances in the language which often rhymes. At the same time, it remains, of course, a story for everyone and this version is powerful, charming, witty, compelling – and universal. Well done director, Peter Savison who was one of the original actor/puppeteers when this show first played at Little Angel Theatre in 2007.
Two performers Duane Gooden and Amanda Wright act out roles partly as human beings but use puppets for some of the storytelling with all the puppetry clearly visible – the usual pattern for most puppet shows these days. The animals – some farm (Dalamatian dogs to die for!) and some wild are gradually packed into the ark which is assembled on stage. Wright hands out the wild animals – camels, zebras, tigers and so on – from the back of the auditorium so that audience children are involved in passing them forward as they complete their journey to safety. Later there’s a delightful woodpecker pecking so enthusiastically that Noah fears there will be holes in the ark.
Music by Peter Savison and Sandra Bee is often based on simple triads which, done rhythmically, creates impressively simple action songs. The audience, for example, sings Go Noah Go with the cast several times as they work on stage. At other moments the triads allow Gooden and Wright to sing in some very attractive harmony – and it’s all folksily unaccompanied.
Gooden has a fabulous chocolate brown singing voice and a delightfully urbane stage presence. Wright is a fine character actor – mostly playing Mrs Noah being sensible and supportive but also giving us a nice account of an old man who refuses to sail with the ark. Both are skilled at voice work. Gooden’s interpolated story told by a frog, apparently and incongruously from Wolverhampton is a nice comic touch, for instance. So is Wright’s pair of parrots who seem to have flown in from California.
Other excellences in this enjoyable show include Lyndie Wright’s puppets and designs – especially the imposing totem-like pair of gods, one male and one female, at the beginning. The creation of the storm with rocking along with ribbons operated by front row children works well too.