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Zeraffa Giraffa review at Little Angel Theatre, London – ‘great cast but needs more laughs’

A scene from Zeraffa Giraffa. Photo: Ellie Kurttz A scene from Zeraffa Giraffa. Photo: Ellie Kurttz

The most astonishing thing about this story is its origin in the historical event of the first ever giraffe arriving in France in 1827 as a royal gift. Originally penned by children’s author Dianne Hofmeyr in 2014, the unusual adventure story is here rendered through an array of storytelling techniques including live music and multilingual character acting as well as various kinds of object manipulation, shadow puppetry and Handspring-style zoomorphism.

The main protagonist’s involuntary transit from the East to the West is used to subtly draw the parallel with the plight of present-day migrants, although this narrative layer will be more obvious to the parents rather than the targeted audience of 4-10 year olds. Fear and desolation are leitmotifs that might unsettle the younger members of the age group: Zeraffa is taken away from her parents, caught in a storm, denied hospitality and confronted by a pack of wolves before she and her faithful companion Atir find a happy ending of sorts.

Photo: Ellie Kurttz

Another potential challenge to a young viewer’s suspension of disbelief is technical overambitiousness: a varying use of scale for a baby giraffe has the tendency to confuse, as does, at times, an exceedingly smart set, consisting of multiple stackable boxes filled with various auxiliary environments.

Nevertheless, mostly thanks to a strikingly talented cast, the show is bound to tickle curiosity and raise many educational questions regarding geographies, different cultures and languages, histories and behaviours, both animal and human. All it might be missing is just a few more laughs.

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An ambitious educational and multi-talented collaboration that could do with more laughs