Fowl Play @ The Puppet Theatre Barge Review

Farmyard tales usually guarantee a recipe for success, especially televisually and filmically. With stories such as Babe and Charlotte’s Web jumping to mind, these really capture the imagination of audiences both young and old. Juliet Roger‘s Fowl Play, currently playing at the Puppet Theatre Barge in Richmond clutches onto this tradition, and translates this onto the stage.

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As the title suggests, Fowl Play is afoot, as the farm yard’s new arrival, a foal is sadly stolen from it’s new home. Sarah Fitzpatrick, Gren Middleton, Tom Higgins and Juliet Rogers masterfully carve out a farm yard of puppets, from hens to a dog, a cat to pigs and of course the foal… or is it even a foal? Elizabeth Barron, Sarah Fitzpatrick and Juliet Meacock joyously animate the barge’s stage from the fluttering of the hen’s wings, to the turning of an owl’s head. Every animal’s nuance in regards to movement is accounted for, and for this, the ensemble can not be faulted.

Fowl Play‘s premise is simple, perhaps a little too simple. The minimalistic nature of the plot allows for the younger audience members to participate and follow the narrative, however this does not offer any challenge, allowing for predictable conclusions to be subverted. The younger members of the audience during certain points appear a lot more audible than the narrative itself, and I therefore wonder whether this is due to them engaging in the show being presented, or whether they too are struggling to be entertained by the story? It could be a mixture of both…

Juliet Rogers writes a considered yet predictable tale, and I’m left wishing that I am able to root for the characters presented to myself. The characters however leave only a one dimensional impression, although there is no doubt that they are adorable characters. The real story I believe is in the arrival of the foal, and how it assimilates into a new environment and new personalities…

Shadow puppetry delights, as the puppeteers magically depict a herd of cattle walking across a field. Utilising both marionette and shadow puppetry, this produces a great gateway for youngsters to access a variety of theatrical techniques. 3/5

Review written by Lucy Basaba.

Fowl Play is currently showing at the Puppet Theatre Barge until Sunday 27th September. For more information on the production, visit here…

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