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Hippity Hop (Susan Elkin reviews)

composed by Richard Edwards & Kadialy Kouyate. Produced by Richard Edwards.
society/company: Oily Cart
performance date: 17 Dec 2018
venue: artsdepot, North Finchley (part of a UK tour)

Photo: Suzi Corker


No, this charming, immersive show for very young children is not about rabbits. It’s a hip hop piece with lots of raps, rhythms and engaging music by BREIS.

Written originally (2004) by Oily Cart co-founder Tim Webb, who stepped down as artistic director earlier this year, the show is now very ably directed by Patrick Lynch. We’re in a studio space with a shop in each corner, a rotating, circular dais in the centre – designs by Carleen De Souza and Stella Cecil. The young audience and their carers sit round the dais and walk round in a group to the next shop when directed to.

The narrative is stronger than in some Oily Cart shows. A pram containing a baby has rolled away from the child’s Mummy. The show is a mini quest along a high street from shop to shop to reunite mother and child. So well does this work that, at the performance I saw, by the time we got to the second shop children were beginning to call out to the shopkeepers that “The baby has lost her Mummy so we’re looking for her” The shops are multisensory so that one sells sounds, one gloves and fabrics, the third one scents and the fourth light.

Katherine Vernez Gray, an Oily Cart regular, is warm and appealing in a range of roles. Her velvety voice is used here in several accents at which she is very adept. She sings those hip hop numbers well too. Oli “Solocypher” Polidore Perrins plays most of the other roles – including two shopkeepers and is similarly strong but unthreatening, He’s also excellent at interacting with the audience which requires a deal of thinking on your feet when you are working with this age group.

Kadialy Kouyate is once again the musician on this show. He provides a sort of lyrical vocal continuo in several of the songs, Best of all is his kora playing which is soft, gentle evocative and really rather moving. The sound sits somewhere between a guitar and a harp but isn’t quite like either.

I overheard a male carer with a nursery party – who seemed to be senior to the women working with his group – say in excited amazement: “This takes theatre to a whole new level. We have to get on board with it. We must get the CD.” He was clearly new to this sort of work and to the very distinctive Oily Cart modus operandi – but of course he’s right. This work is as theatrically compelling as it is important to the development of young children.

Photo: Suzi Corker

First published by Sardines:
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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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