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Butterflies review at Half Moon Theatre, London – ‘admirably ambitious children’s theatre’

The cast of Butterflies at Half Moon Theatre, London

There is much to admire in Tangled Feet and the Half Moon Theatre’s co-production for three-to-eight year olds.

Using the company’s trademark movement and visual theatre vocabulary, the production makes no compromises on content. It is a show about anxiety and it takes its audience on a rollercoaster ride of stormy seas, bottomless caves and deep dark woods.

The use of visual metaphor throughout the show is particularly refreshing in the world of children’s theatre – the butterflies of the title and knotted ropes to signify the central theme. This is done in a legible way for the target audience. My four and a half year old named the frequent use of background stage haze “the Spooky” – as if it was one of the characters.

The narrative is simple – three friends Marshall, Skipp and Holly travel together on a slightly abstract adventure consisting of a number of anxiety-making challenges to be overcome (being left alone, climbing, being in the dark, going to sleep).

The tone of their dialogue is often Beckettian – “We are here. Have we been here before? Let’s go” – and the characters often gaze at imagined scenes over our heads, which can at times be confusing.

Despite its highly commendable ambitions, however, there are two fundamental elements missing from Nathan Curry’s production: a reassuring rapport with the audience and a sufficiently uplifting pay off at the end.

The show takes its young audience to a lot of cold and dark places in the name of a worthy cause, but the thrills are few and far between.

 

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Verdict
Children’s theatre that tackles a difficult subject with admirable ambition, but lacks a reassuring pay-off
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