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Big Up! review at Unity Theatre, Liverpool – ‘a captivating experience’

The cast of Big Up! at Unity Theatre, Liverpool. Photo: Helen Murray

Three years ago, Theatre-Rites and 20 Stories High collaborated on the raw and refreshingly original Broke ‘N’ Beat Collective.

Big Up! – being premiered at the Unity at the start of a UK tour – sees the companies marrying their complementary experimental theatremaking approaches once again, this time to create a charming and inventive sensory experience for very young audiences.

But while the 50-minute mash-up of physical theatre, puppetry, hip hop and music might be aimed at three to six-year-olds, it’s witty enough to appeal to audiences of all ages.

The first third in fact is wordless storytelling, the cast’s smiling mime accompanied by a panoply of expressive sounds from beatboxer Hobbit, the combination eliciting infectious giggles from the smallest theatregoers.

The action unfolds on a stage that is bare save for half a dozen equipment cases from which light, sound and even actors – a malleable Iestyn Evans, playing a hapless Frank Spencer character – emerge, creating shapes and developing ideas in a world where there appears to be no set rules of engagement.

Theatre-Rites’ trademark puppetry comes in a number of forms here, from simple foam shapes that the cast transforms magically and seamlessly into figures, animals, fish, houses and beating hearts, to a Morph-like neon outline figure, to an alien baby straight out of a 1970s Smash advert.

It all combines to create a captivating live theatre experience for little ones, and a reminder to the rest of us of how much fun there is to be had when you let your imagination run wild.

Joyful and clever storytelling for audiences young and old

Production Information

Big Up!
Unity Theatre
February 8 2019
February 16, 2019
Press night
February 9, 2019
Keith Saha, Sue Buckmaster
Keith Saha, Sue Buckmaster
Michael Fowkes (puppets)
Verity Quinn
Joseph Hornsby
Jon Everett
Beatrice Sutton, Connor Booth (assistant stage managers)
Stage manager
Laura Hammond
Cast includes
Iestyn Evans, Clark Edwards, Dorcas Sebuyange, Hobbit
Theatre-Rites, 20 Stories High
Running time