There is an unexpected physicality to Lucy Bairstow’s splendid performance as Slug in the Herd Theatre’s immersive, relaxed production for pre-school children from about two years old.
Bairstow might not epitomise any classic essence of sluggishness, but her apologetic deference – only accentuated by Finlay McGuigan’s primping, posing, puffed-up caterpillar – is endearing and draws you into the garden where she is desperate to get to the last remaining leaf, which is unfortunately suspended above big capsules of poison.
Slug and Caterpillar must learn the age-old lesson about cooperation being better than conflict, overcoming their prejudices towards each other as they work together to get rid of the poison. Along the way, they explore each other’s taste in music, drop in the odd visual film reference for the parents and end up creating a big area to play with slime after the show.
Inclusivity runs right through the piece. There are only a dozen words in the script, all of which are reflected by both the actors’ physical performances and signing of the word. Rute Irbite’s set and audience area uses thick, grey-flecked underlay for its floor, with stacks of comfortable expanded foam as rocks for seats – plus easy exit for anyone disturbed by the slightly loud sound design.