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Pigeon (Harrogate Theatre)

Lunabug's production of Pigeon offers a timely story of First World War heroics for children and adults alike

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

As Lunabug's production of Pigeon came without a programme or team-sheet, I must apologise for any failure to attribute credit, but a visit to the Lunabug website did, at least, reveal the names of the two principals.

Lunabug's Naomi Rothwell and Beth Caudle in Pigeon
© Matt Mulligan

Pigeon is aimed at audiences aged 6+, with the occasional joke for the grown-ups (a witty send-up on speech translation, for example) and bold references to planning to "ruddy well bomb them like crazy" (or words to that effect) which produced no horrified reactions from the six-year-olds of Harrogate or their parents.

The simple set is attractive in a deliberately home-spun way. What appears to be the gable wall of a barn imparts a rustic ricketiness and there's a rough table at the side where a young man plays a gentle guitar melody as the audience enters. As musician (accordion and keyboard also) and sound effects man he contributes greatly to the quirky warmth of the play.

The choice of subject is unusual, but surprisingly effective. The carrier pigeon Cher Ami was a hero of the First World War, saving many lives by bringing a crucial message despite severe wounds – and Pigeon tells the story of the bird that won the Croix de Guerre, conveniently leaving out the fact that it was actually trained by the American Army!

Lunabug is Naomi Rothwell and Beth Caudle who, I assume, devised and designed the show as well as appearing in it as the two intrepid pigeoneers. There's a jolly song and plenty of skilled puppetry and their performances combine charm with genuine interplay with the children in the audience. The publicity promises "delightfully daft characters" – which must mean the booming Field Marshal and his "silly ass" sidekick who constantly addresses him as "Sarge", both barely in control of monster moustaches with a life of their own.

Pigeon is fun – and not without its educational side. Having got the audience onside with their playful story-telling, Rothwell and Caudle slip in a few surprising historical facts and briefly consider the serious implications of the story.

Pigeon tours until November, with the following Yorkshire and North East dates (daytime performances, sometimes two a day):

17 Sep: Morley Town Hall

27 Sep: ARC, Stockton

8 Nov: Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds

9 Nov: Barnsley Civic

For a full list of tour dates visit www.lunabug.co.uk