Tadpoles review at Lyric Hammersmith, London – ‘thoughtful and engaging’
Covering roughly the same moral and emotional ground as M6’s earlier show One Little Word, this imaginative two-hander begins with siblings playing in a tatty public playground about to be demolished. Their game, atmospherically supported by Tayo Akinbode’s music, is one of Superheroes complete with swishing shiny capes. But they’re quarrelsome and the thrust of the piece is that they need to find ways to work together if they’re really going to save the world.
Sue Johnston, as the voice of the children’s mother, manages to combine warmth with authority. Emily Spowage’s Captain Conker is balletic and physical because brawn is her character’s strength. As Captain Clever, Luke Walker’s performance is one of real sensitivity, especially when he’s caught cheating and when he struggles to overcome his fear of heights and, inch by inch, rescue his stranded sister from the top of the climbing frame. Every child present learns from this that brain and brawn are complimentary assets and that if you work together you really can save the world – or at least a pond full of tadpoles on land due to be bulldozed.
The prop makers have clearly had fun creating convincing jars of wriggling tadpoles and M6, as usual, makes a fine job of getting children to think hard as well as entertaining them. The reversal of gender stereotype is also pleasing and neat: it is the female child – aka Captain Conker – who has the physical courage, at first.