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Once Upon a Snowflake (Susan Elkin reviews)

Once Upon a Snowflake
By Erin Dewar
society/company: Paper Balloon Theatre
performance date: 15 Dec 2019
venue: Quarterhouse Theatre, 49 Tontine Street, Folkestone CT20 1JT


This is a show about winter sprites which celebrates the value of story telling and, ultimately, libraries. The three cast members are pretend-earnest spriteologists leading their very young audience on a journey of ‘academic’ discovery because a sprite, you see, is quite different from an elf or pixie.

It’s a warm hearted, linguistically unpatronising (‘psyschological’, ‘reported vanished’) show which includes shadow puppetry and lots of music (by Darren Clark who also MDs). It’s full of good things but the very best of these is Emily Newsome who plays piano, accordion, saxophone, and provides some beautiful dreamy tuneful singing along with lots of witty sound effects. When a sprite hurtles invisibly across the stage she blows sharply into a microphone to create a dramatic ‘whoosh’. She graduated from Guildford School of Acting this year and I hope the people who trained her on the relatively new actor musician degree there are very proud of her because they’re certainly entitled to be.

Alex Kanefsky and Laura Tipper are both fine physical actors, with a wide range of voices, and impressive ability to connect with the audience.

Forty minutes into this show I was just beginning to wonder whether it isn’t just a bit too clever and wordy for under-5s and I was expecting them to get restless any minute because there’d been very little interaction. Then suddenly it blossomed.

For complicated plot reasons there has to be a story which has never been told before so the house lights go up and Tipper goes round the audience borrowing a coat and few other bits and pieces from the children. Kanefsky then asks for the name of an animal – and then another. Within seconds he is improvising a story about, at the performance I saw, a hungry Lion named Jackin, and an evil penguin who is frightened of spiders. Tipper creates appropriate puppetry using audience possessions and Newsome adds music and sound. Bravo all: masterclass in interactive theatre and thinking on your feet. The nursery and reception groups I saw it with were thrilled. And so was I.

 First published by Sardines:
Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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