Hannah Millbank and her three year old son enjoy the Ugly Duckling at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol
A classic tale, simply told, with a backdrop of music and costumes bringing it to live, The Ugly Duckling is a delightful play that entertains little ones and amuses their grown-ups.
With no set to speak of, and just four actors, this Travelling Light and Tobacco Factory co-production is a wonderfully charming retelling of Hans Christian Anderson’s story of family and fitting in. Bursting onto the scene with quirky clumsiness, ‘Duckie’ the ugly duckling (Emily May Smith) quickly set off a wave of giggles from the children (and adults) in the theatre. And the slapstick comedy scattered throughout, kept the laughs coming and the kids captivated.
Simple costume changes transform the actors into various characters and animals, while Brian Hargreaves, one of the four, plays numerous live instruments that help guide the young audience through the play’s different scenes and moods. Imaginations are definitely ignited, with white umbrellas elegantly opening and closing to show swans migrating, and hat-changes representing the variety of animals found in the farmyard – clever, simple and childlike. Recommended for age two and above, I was amazed by how transfixed our three-and-a-half-year-old, first-time theatre goer was for the entire hour-long performance.
Travelling Light’s creative production is perfectly suited to the Tobacco Factory’s intimate set-up. With seats surrounding the entire stage, no matter your ticket-number, you’ll feel close to the action. In fact, some audience members came even closer, becoming part of the actual action: asked to hold props, invited to help hide ‘Duckie’ from becoming Christmas dinner, and having duvets thrown over them by the main character herself.
The moment the play closed, little ones flooded the stage, rushing round where the actors just were. The intimacy of this theatre, and this theatre company, is perfectly-suited for young theatre goers. And this winter warmer is a must for anyone looking to introduce their pre-schooler to the art of story-telling on the stage.