Children’s theatre is difficult to pull off. In some ways kids are the toughest audience a show can have; to hold their attention and keep them engaged is quite a challenge.
Luckily The Velveteen Rabbit manages just that. The puppetry is completely captivating, particularly the rabbit himself, (moved and voiced to perfection by Clara Edmonds), and Backhand Theatre use stagecraft to good effect throughout.
The performers regularly interact with the audience, and always effectively tie this in with the story. Generally speaking it doesn’t feel too cheesy or patronising, which helps hold the attention of the young audience. The Marjorie Williams story is of course absolutely beautiful; a rabbit who desperately wants to be “real”. Sadly the quality of the script is rather patchy and doesn’t capture the poetic quality of the original book, but this doesn’t detract from the overall magic.
The company are clearly enjoying themselves, and the children seemed to sense this and warm to them quickly. The interactive elements of the piece could be built on more; the puppets could come down into the auditorium and get even closer to the audience (Edmonds’ rabbit could certainly have managed this effectively with her wonderful physicality). But nonetheless the audience are captivated, and the atmosphere is very sweet.
The show is a sophisticated and genuinely touching short piece of theatre; the performers bring the characters to life, and make it feel real for the children. The shabby script is a shame, but as the horse says; “when you are real, shabbiness doesn’t matter”.
- Chris Wheeler