"The Not So Ugly Duckling"
by Margaret Morley for remotegoat on 30/05/12

"The Ugly Duckling" is one of Hans Christian Andersen's great classic fairy tales and it is delightful to see this story performed at the Puppetry Theatre, using puppets specially made for the show. The tale, portraying a loving and protective mother, is suitably adapted, whilst still retaining the original essence of the story. The play, which is suitable for 3-year olds and above, opens and closes with live music played on saxophone and violin.

The puppeteers, Mandy Travis and Jonathan Storey, give a great performance, using the puppets in much the same way that children would if they were playing with their toys. Although both artists wore dark clothes, perhaps it would have been better if, instead, they had worn black clothes and black gloves in order to give the impression that the toys were moving by themselves rather than being manipulated by the performers. However, this idea may prove to be difficult in the instance of the blackbird, as it would not show up particularly well against a dark background. The use of different voices for different characters and different vocal intonations worked very well.

In part two of the play, one of the characters changed their role from being just a puppeteer into being a person as well as a puppeteer, which resulted in a lack of continuity, and might have been confusing for some of the children if they had observed this change.

The puppets were well designed and interesting to see. Part of the set included a circle in the centre of the stage, which worked well as a pond, but it was not entirely clear when, and if, at times it represented the world. It was turned over and the design on the reverse was also used as well, and on one occasion it was even used as a backdrop for a washing line, which further muddled matters. However, the reeds and lilies used in the show worked very well.

At times the duckling was walking on the pond but at other times it appeared to be walking on air. This apparent lack of consistency perhaps ought to be addressed, with a view to bringing a greater impression of reality to the action.

Overall, the play was quite intense and maintained the audience's attention throughout; a well-deserved break was allocated half way through the performance.

The isle seats are marked, "Children Priority", so that the children's views are not obstructed and there are a few isle seats available for adults in the back two rows. The children really seemed to enjoy the show from the sound of their cheers and applause at the end.

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