"powerful, haunting, innovative musical theatre"
by Frank Hill for remotegoat on 20/01/18

Sashka is a very naughty boy. Everybody says so. And his behaviour seems to confirm it - getting himself expelled from school, reducing other children to tears for the fun of it, and generally sulking around the house and being unpleasant.

But then Sashka has a lot to be angry about, as we soon realise in Actual Size Theatre Company’s production ‘The Little Angel’ (at The King’s Arms, Salford, then touring). Life in Russia at the turn of the twentieth-century is not easy, and it doesn’t help that Sashka’s parents are violent, unsympathetic people who have little time for their son, or patience with him.

Luckily, his neighbours are far more supportive, and although he shows little appreciation of their desire to help, they persevere by finding him a place at a new school and generally taking an interest. In fact, they even invite him round for Christmas, an invitation he is reluctant to accept. After pressure from his parents he eventually visits them, only to become strangely obsessed by one of their Christmas tree decorations. A little angel. It seems to have a hypnotic effect on him - some strange hold that makes him desperate to own it, whatever the cost. This obsession will eventually turn his world upside down, have a devastating effect on his family and stir-up long held secrets that were perhaps best left alone.
A powerful, haunting piece of musical theatre, ‘The Little Angel’ has a rich diversity of catchy musical themes - romantic, comic, melancholic, intense, dark - almost operatic in structure, with lyrics that illuminate character and move the narrative along effectively.

Paul Dale-Vickers is the writer of the piece and also performs in the role of Sashka’s father. He leads a talented cast, with Alex Bradbury-Hall as Sashka, Samantha Beswick as the boy’s mother, and Caitlin Magee and Phoebe Lloyd as the neighbours and narrators. Craig Lomas provides excellent sound and atmospheric lighting.
The narrators sometimes have a jarring habit of jumping in with burst of plot exposition, but nevertheless this is a powerful tale of regret and lost opportunities and I really enjoyed it.

I’m a bit of a humbug when it comes to Christmas. It hangs around far too long, and once Boxing Day is over I’m keen to get back to normal - until it raises it’s far-too-premature head again in October. But this play isn’t really about Christmas, it’s simply used as a narrative device, and works well in that role. This is a production that can be enjoyed at any time of year. Actual Size Theatre Company certainly achieve their aim of creating, ‘new, innovative and intimate musical theatre’, and I feel that ‘The Little Angel’ is well worth seeing.

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