The Boy, the Piano and the Beach review at Brighthelm Centre, Brighton – ‘a wordless seaside adventure’
Comprised of the People Show alumni and based in Lewes, Slot Machine Theatre have a reputation for inventive and inclusive family theatre. Their shows for children include a ballet for scooters and the self-explanatory improvised puppet piece Your Toys, which will be touring again this autumn.
But first this new Brighton Festival commission, which shares a premise with staple Cbeebies show Melody: listening to classical music can take your imagination on wonderful adventures. In The Boy, the Piano and the Beach, pieces by Debussy, Ravel, Prokofiev and Philip Glass are played on stage by gifted young pianist Edward Liddall. Our guide is a boy puppet with a snotty nose and an impish smile.
The rippling piano washes him out from the beach, where deckchair tops fly like birds, to watery depths inhabited by a gentle, giant sea creature.
The relationship between music and action is deftly established. A simple white backdrop is patterned with soundwaves. Four dancers lean and roll with the piano and the tide. When the little boy arrives, in his red jumper and yellow wellies, there is an engaging shift from the drab greyscale of the opening into a puppet world that pops with colour. Peril arrives in the form of darting crimson streamers.
There are too many moments, in this 50-minute piece, where mediocre movement drags, or unnecessary projection holds sway. But the live piano and wordless puppetry ensure the show has a diffuse charm. Besides, the interactive illustrated implies this should be just the beginning of your adventure.