The most difficult age group for child audiences has to be the nursery-first year primary school one. Attention spans can be very limited and these tots haven’t yet learnt how to hide boredom. It’s a tribute to Gomito’s show that the youngsters at this rural Suffolk venue were completely enthralled by Woodland.
We are taken from a waiting area to a wood-screened soft green carpeted area where dolls’ house-sized trees and intriguing peep-holes in a fence on the far side confront us. The keepers of the special area are busy ironing fallen leaves and clearing-up after the birds and animals (the ecological and environmental messages are conveyed with humour and considerable subtlety).
Then a mysterious box is delivered. Out pops Chester, a wood-mole (alas, I don’t think you’re likely to come across one of these locally). This rod puppet with his smart knitted jumper is adventurous in the extreme and the keepers, again with subtlety, learn to accommodate this and to let him try things out – but with proper safeguards.
Amelia Bird (who also designed the show), Philippa Herrick (the composer) and Alex Bird take us through it as seriously as is proper, and convinced their core audience. It looks good – the attention to detail is excellent – and lasts just long enough. Letting the children explore the nest boxes and other hidden places at the end serves to bridge the space between stage and country realities.