Children’s show Echoa came to Sadler’s Wells as part of a Family Weekend, which featured workshops and activities as well as performances.
Entering the main foyer, you hear the distant clatter of a drumming workshop upstairs. Going over the theatre, it was quieter than I’d expected – not for lack of children, but because so many of them were absorbed in making hats or decorating a tree made out of umbrellas.
Arcosm Company’s Echoa is a mix of dance, percussion and comedy, created by company founders Thomas Guerry and Camille Rocailleux. Four performers climb over a scaffolding set, with drumming moves becoming dance or a mimed conversation. It starts with the performers in silhouette, from Marie Urvoy perched on the highest platform to percussionists waiting by the big xylophone down below.
During one sequence, a dancer taps a drummer on the elbow or shoulder. In response, the drummer swings an arm out or up, moving to a different drum, creating new sounds and patterns. Rearranging boxes, the four artists keep finding there aren’t quite enough spaces to sit on: someone gets pushed off the end. They have conversations in puffs and patter syllables, or tap out rhythms on their own and each other’s limbs.
The strongest sequences involve interaction. The child audience loved the sibling squabbles of the box sequence, the character moments as performers get carried away and then embarrassed.
Echoa works less well as it becomes more abstract, with performers in silhouette, getting on with dance or music solos. These moments tend to be static, using less of the multi-level set. The children kept watching: the little girl sitting in front of me, who had cried at the scary size of the auditorium, was happy throughout. Still, the amount of rustling went up as the pace slowed for each solo.
The design avoids the usual bright colours of children’s shows, with an industrial set and muted colours. Everyone wears tops and trousers in olive green. Colour and contrast would be more fun.
The family weekend’s extra activities were a treat, taking over different bits of the theatre. Explosion hats were popular, decorated with cartoon-strip bangs. I particularly liked the Lightning Room. Children strike a pose, a flash goes off, and their shadows stay frozen against the wall. The patterns are unexpected, from heroic attitudes to the little girl waving her legs in the air.
Until. Box office 0844 412 4300.