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The Journey Home review at Little Angel Theatre, London – ‘poignant’

Arran Glass and Rachel Leonard in The Journey Home at Little Angel Theatre. Photo: Ellie Kurttz Arran Glass and Rachel Leonard in The Journey Home at Little Angel Theatre. Photo: Ellie Kurttz

Plaintive seagulls, the Aurora Borealis, a chilly landscape, evocative music and an engaging polar bear get this powerful little show off to a colourful and witty start – with much mirth as the little bear slips on the ice. And then you realise that the sun is shining too brightly and he’s sliding about because it’s melting when it shouldn’t be. The four (miniature) act piece then gives us a panda losing its bamboo forest to urban development, an orangutan whose trees are going for timber and an elephant being hunted for its tusks. It’s strong stuff, immaculately presented, and the scene with the projected dodo at the end made me cry.

Rachel Leonard and Arran Glass (whose exquisite folksy music in a range of keys and moods fully supports the action) are a fine team, operating stick and table-top puppets in various sizes, often collaboratively. And, in a piece that has no dialogue – although there are words in the recorded songs – the grunts, groans, sighs and clicks with which Leonard ‘voices’ Sally Todd’s beautiful animal puppets are nicely done.

Of course, the real point of this is to convey a very pertinent message about conservation, and it certainly does that. It is also entertaining theatre with a great deal of charm. Arran Glass chopping trees down with a kazoo in his mouth making the changing note of a chainsaw, for example, amuses at the same time as it educates – and makes the adults, in the audience at least, well up with sadness.

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Poignant, pertinent puppetry for ages three-plus