The Elves and the Shoemaker review at Little Angel Theatre, London – ‘charming and imaginative’
Puppets can do things actors can’t. They can fly effortlessly across the playing space. They can appear to change costume or size instantly. Puppetry at its best can allow stories to be told in imaginative ways, full of layers and subtleties.
In this one-man show, Andy Lawrence invites the audience into his old fashioned shoe shop before taking them back to the enchanting, miniature world of his grandfather.
Lawrence looks a little like a hippy-ish retired RAF officer, with his white waxed moustache; he excels at voices and making funny noises, although the Elvis references (a play on the word “elf”, presumably?) probably bypass the young audience.
The piece is not short of imaginative ideas. The use of a violin as a double bass for the diminutive old shoemaker to play is a nice touch, as is the inclusion of a chirpy pet mouse named Cornelius who wants to feed the shoe-making elves on macaroni cheese. The sultry, hair tossing puppet who buys shoes and then does an engagingly twitchy Spanish dance to castanet and guitar accompaniment is also fun.
The busy doll’s house-like set with its pop-up shoes, a fold-down bed and a drop-down chair is ingenious too.
There’s plenty of charm in this generally pleasing show although some of the scripting is erratic. The adult asides about the iPhone 6 and public liability licence are self indulgent. On the other hand it doesn’t do to patronise a young audience by assuming that some things, such as nightfall or the effect of wearing ill-fitting shoes, have to be laboriously explained.