Thumbelina's Great Big Adventure (Cambridge)
Dancing Brick, an associate company at the Maltings in Farnham, presents this year's Christmas show Thumbelina's Great Big Adventure at the Cambridge Junction
We are greeted by a semi-circular raised stage, edged with acorn footlights and fringed with trees, in the style of a fit-up theatre booth. Thumbelina's Great Big Adventure is based on the Hans Christian Andersen story, but Dancing Brick have given it a new twist at the Cambridge Junction.
A childless couple rear a miniature girl but do not survive a terrible storm. It is left to the grandmother (Thomas Eccleshare) to nurture Thumbelina (Valentina Ceschi) and to keep her safe. Not so easy, when the young girl has an adventurous nature and persists in exploring.
When you're tiny, it's a long way from the table-top to the ground, garden plants look like forest trees, snails and beetles are enormous predators and it's easy to be marooned on a lily pad. Then – what happens when you find yourself not just in an underground burrow but at the Molehill night-club with its sinister blind proprietor (Eccleshare)?
If you're lucky, you meet a lyre bird (Rew Lowe), a flamboyant cabaret artist whom Mole has discarded. Eventually, after Granny has searched everywhere and all but given up in despair, the bird recovers his plumage and Thumbelina returns safely home, rather wiser than when she left it.
The performers with musician Tom Penn have devised and directed the show. There's a clever use of a small (too small?) puppet for Thumbelina and over-sized props for her scenes with her grandmother. Amy Cook's costumes and accessories are stylish and have a nice blend of the realistic and imaginative.
I felt that the first half drags a bit; there's a lot of story-telling which may pass over the heads of the youngest audience members, but it all picks up in the second act with the introduction of the lyre bird and chases through the audience. The moral (adults can actually be right when they tell you what not to do) is implicit, not laboured.
Thumbelina's Great Big Adventure is at the Cambridge Junction until 4 January.