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The Firework Maker's Daughter (Keswick)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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Stephen Russell’s pantomime-inspired adaptation of Philip Pullman’s Indonesia-set novel tells the story of Lila (Vera Chok) and her journey to discover the secret of firework making so she can save the life of her father Lalchand (Ashley Alymann).

On the way to the volcano Mount Merapi to encounter the dreaded Fire Fiend, she falls in with a gang of gormless would-be pirates (Declan Wilson, Matt Nalton, Phil Corbitt and the hilarious Joanna Holden), saving them from a crocodile and a tiger.

Following her ordeal at the hand of the Fiend and some ghosts, and a meeting with the Goddess of the Emerald Lake (Laura Cox) she works against the clock to try and come up with the best firework display in the world. Along the way, she is hindered, and eventually helped, by her friend Chulak (Mitesh Soni) and his lugubrious talking elephant, Hamlet, played in best panto horse style by Jon Bonner and Matt Nalton, and encounters the pirates several more times as they search for their big break, a ‘million rupee idea’.

Feisty and physical is the order of the day in this show, which is aimed at a slightly younger audience than last year’s Theatre by the Lake production of Tom’s Midnight Garden, and is full of good humour and spectacle. The cast, which also includes local children who open and close the show with Lila in an Indonesian dance (choreographed by Ella Vale), double as musicians playing composer Chris Stones’ evocative gamelan music. Stefan Escreet’s staging is inventive and imaginative, using silhouettes, puppets, song, dance and slapstick to keep the tempo high.

Special mention must go to the design team, as Martin Johns’ beautiful bamboo-themed set immediately projects the audience into another world, and visuals designer Andrew J Lindsay manages to conjure up both the inside of a volcano and a firework display, using the whole of the auditorium roof.

TBL's The Firework Maker's Daughter is a simple family-oriented fun night out; ideal for the festive season.

- Stephen Longstaffe


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