"Defying preconceptions with grown-up puppetry"
by Gabriella Apicella for remotegoat on 02/07/10

If a puppet show about the child pornography industry can't force you to let go of naive assumptions, then nothing can! This poignantly elegant production defies any preconceptions, highlighting the nightmarish truth behind news-friendly phrases like "indecent images" with eloquent sensitivity.

It is soon clear that there is simply no better format for Raven Kaliana to have chosen to share her horrific autobiographical tale of exploitation - paradoxical as the concept may at first seem to those of us more used to recalling images of Punch and Judy on the beach, or Sesame Street when puppets are mentioned. The puppets in "Hooray for Hollywood" are exquisitely made, pale and waif-like in their appearance and animated by a masterful team.

Forced to appear in situations of unimaginable terror from being a toddler, the character of Sylvia suffers abuse at the hands of adults who are shown from the mid-thigh and down - eerily calling to mind the way in which grown-ups are depicted in Tom and Jerry. These adults decide Sylvia's financial worth and the next degradations she will suffer, in a series of tableaux that serve to demystify a subject that society refuses to discuss the truth of. Mute throughout, Sylvia and fellow child Martin communicate through the achingly painful beauty of plucked violin strings played live by Susanna Ferrar, and evoke a protective instinct in the audience that only a slab of metal would not feel moved by.

There are certainly edits to be made to the piece it is true: some of the dialogue is over written; there is a stronger narrative that could emerge to unify the scenes; and the sustained horror of the subject matter does not necessarily require a performance as long as its current running time. Having said that, there are barely any productions I have seen that have had as strong an impact on me as this one. It touches the heart, mind, conscience and soul in a way that most West End shows could only dream of. The nightly presence of Childline at the post-show discussion that follows serves to further highlight the immediacy and urgency of the issues portrayed, and one can only hope that this piece achieves what it hopes to by provoking discussion about a subject so repellent the public at large refuse to interrogate it. I felt truly naive and a little embarrassed at not realising the scale of the terrible crimes being committed in an increasingly widespread industry. Without bitterness or blame, Raven has produced a piece of theatre that demands to be seen by anyone that cares for children. They say knowledge is power, so educate yourself - go and see this.

Other recent reviews by Gabriella Apicella
Operation Love Story
Mission of a Hopeful Romantic by Gabriella Apicella
Ark by Olivia Neville
Menagerie of Olivia's Comedy Creatures by Gabriella Apicella
Women's revenge
Women Stuck in their Past by Gabriella Apicella
Measure for Measure
Feeling optimistic about Roar potential by Gabriella Apicella
Chekhov in Hell
Restraint restrains this multi-layered play by Gabriella Apicella