Imagine a world drained of colour – grey cereal, grey clothes, grey skies. That’s the austere world Chloe lives in, presided over by a malevolent dictator, Her Greynesty the Colour Catcher – until Chloe dreams one night in yellow and a new world of possibility opens up.
Ad Infinitum’s house style – declamatory, larger-than-life performances and tightly drilled movement – isn’t always to my personal taste, but there’s no denying it’s well suited to children’s theatre. The performances are pitched perfectly to its 4-to-7-year-old audience – Chloe’s (Charlotte Dubery) wide-eyed wonder is infectious and charming. Katie Sykes’ design and Jay Costello Roberts’ lighting sensibly delay the inevitable pay-off, only exploding into full rainbow party mode late in the piece. Brian Hargreave’s music, incorporating synthy underscoring and bouncy pop tunes, neatly sidesteps tweeness.
When one child in the audience points out that the strict teacher character, Ms Greyvina, is wearing a hat that’s actually more of a dirty green, it prompts a spontaneous chorus of children screaming “green!” – an almost-revolution that prefigures the play’s own scripted revolt against its grey quasi-fascist state at the end of the show. These children, it would seem, don’t need to be taught how to be brave and stand up to authority.
But the show accommodates this, always playing with – not simply for – its audience. There’s an attention to detail, typical of Ad Infinitum’s work, that extends to how the actors engage with the children, and that’s what makes this show glitter even when its world is drab and grey.