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Small Wonders review at Bernie Grant Arts Centre, London – ‘imaginatively rich new work from Punchdrunk’

Erin Geraghty and Miranda Heath in Small Wonders at Bernie Grant Arts Centre, London. Photo: Stephen Dobbie
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Small Wonders, a new commission for the London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT), boasts the same extraordinary attention to detail and power to transport as a grown-up Punchdrunk show, but with the addition of an engaging, emotionally resonant plot.

The company has been criticised in the past for making work that is rich on atmosphere and aesthetics but disappointing when it comes to storytelling – this piece, aimed at a younger audience, proves it can do both.

Invited into the home of miniatures enthusiast Nanny Price (an uncanny recreation of a granny flat by designer Kate Rigby), we are told stories of Nanny’s life with her daughter Bella via miniatures inspired by her memories. Lighting and sound cues (designed by Adam Foley and Salvador Garza, respectively) take us to Brighton, Butlins and Bournemouth before the most splendid journey of the show sees us relocated, bodily, into one final miniature. I won’t spoil the surprise by revealing any more than that.

Erin Geraghty and Miranda Heath did small wonders of their own at the performance I saw, keeping a boisterous school group (mostly) quiet and gripped as they enacted the emotional tussle of a parent-child relationship in the process of transformation.

The show’s message is laid on a little too thick in places – there are only so many times you need to hear about the importance of imagination. But this is a forgivable flaw given the subtlety and gentleness with which the show touches upon complex issues like poverty, growing up, dementia and grief.

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Verdict
An imaginatively rich, smaller-scale work from the immersive theatre company that places storytelling at its heart
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