Kotuku and Moon Child, Bird Life Productions. Bosco Theatre, The Spiegeltent, 18 May 2019
In this simple, sweetly original puppet/masked mime show, a moon baby escapes his crescent cradle in search of his bouncing ball and falls to a Earth where he discovers the beach and meets a rather greedy white heron. Apparently inspired by the New Zealand landscape and the Maori myth of the lucky heron (kotuku), this didn’t really come across, as there were no identifying features to mark this as Antipodean; the simple set of sky, cliffs and beach portrayed with black and coloured fabric, stars, sea and swooping gulls, could easily have been Sussex. It lost nothing by such universality however; the sadness of the moon parents at losing their child, the cheeky wonder and delight of the moon baby, and the irascible grumpiness of the heron who likes to gather things into his bucket, were precisely and assuredly portrayed without any words or sound effects (other than the background piano-led soundtrack, which was a touch too loud at times for little ears).
This show was suitable for younger than the suggested five years, and I would wholeheartedly recommend it, except for one aspect – the puppeteers wore all black, including over their faces, which lent them a very sinister air. My two year old kept asking, with increasingly fearful tones, “what’s that man doing? What’s that man doing to the moon baby?” The effect was of a ninja manhandling the creatures. It wasn’t necessary and didn’t make the human handlers any less intrusive; rather, it made the young audience more aware and unsettled by them. It would have been better by far to have their faces visible and focused on the puppets’ actions, mirroring ‘their’ emotions, which is a helpful clue that allows us to understand what the puppets are ‘feeling’; rather than being distracting, it’s a cue for the audience.
My little one didn’t manage to last the whole show, as he became increasingly anxious, so I can’t tell you how it ends. But don’t be put off – for slightly older or hardier kids this seemed an accomplished and charming show, and with a bit of adjustment could be delightful. *** Three stars