Bagpuss, Soho Theatre, London
Tuesday 04 January 2011
This season's crop of Christmas shows proves that most inner-London venues are seriously under-used in the rest of the year. There is a plethora of under-age party fun in the West End and now the Soho, home to right-on drama and cutting-edge comedy, has cleared the decks for Bagpuss.
Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin's 1974 children's programme only ran to 13 episodes but today's toddlers have seen the video and they will recognise the stories of Tavish McTavish, the lost ballet pump and the cotton wool house. Above all, they will recognise the exact replica of Emily's shop on the stage, where the saggy old pink-striped cloth cat presides over the witterings of Professor Yaffle the woodpecker, Matilda the rag doll, Gabriel the toad and the grey mice carved on the side of the pipe organ.
They will also recognise the songs by Sandra Kerr and John Faulkner that are lovingly performed by Georgina Sowerby and Susan Harrison. Playing, respectively, Older Emily and Young Emily, they animate the puppets with quick and gracious movement and transform Suzanne Gorman's somewhat over-reverent direction into something resembling a nursery holiday.
The conceit is charming: a shop that sells nothing turns itself into a lost-property office by investigating the stories of errant items and placing them back in the window, in case their former owners walk down the street. The "thing" at the heart of the McTavish story is thought to be a porcupine without spikes. Actually, it is a pin cushion waiting for pins. Naturally, we all then sing the "pingle pangle pingle" song; not only that, we sing it as a round.
The third story becomes too convoluted for an audience of three- to seven-year-olds who have been participating for 50 minutes. Otherwise, this looks set to become a seasonal favourite. Low-tech it may be, but Bagpuss rocks.
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