Saturday, 10 January 2009

Polka Pinocchio

Went with Lara and Vix to see Ian play Pinocchio at the Polka in Wimbledon.
It was a fun show, full of invention played out on a jumble sale of a set, which gave plenty of opportunity for theatrical play, hiding places, secret compartments and clever object theatre. Ian was charming, energised and rather brilliant in the title role. It's hard work to keep a young audience focused for over two hours, but the company did with clarity and enthusiastic storytelling - the kids seemed to have a brilliant time.

There are two dedicated children's theatres in London, here and The Unicorn and it must be a fascinating job creating a magic venue that will really inspire kids to want to see live entertainment. The Unicorn I always thinks suffers a little from it's setting and the amount of money invested in it. It feels like a mini National, great for socialising theatre going, but perhaps a bit imposing to be genuinely child friendly. Polka, with years of experience have done it really well in their red roofed shed of a building, with a cafe in the shape of a train, a rocket disappearing into the roof, dressing up boxes and rocking horses in the foyer. It's chaotic, colourful, imaginative and spacious. It rightly feels as if it belongs to the audience. Nobody is shoving you out of the door or herding you towards the gift shop, the adults sit on the edges of the spaces and let their children run around and play.

Ian had a huge head shot poster on the boards outside, which eclipsed even Lara's gargantuan picture outside Theatre503 before Christmas. They both seemed fairly nonchalant about the self-publicity... but Vix and I know better. It's War!


randolph said...

Maybe the ground floor foyer at Unicorn is a imposing and like the National.But once you enter either the studio theatre and go up the stairs to the main theatre, intimacy envelopes you.The technical facilities are second to none for a childrens theatre.
The main theatre had to be suspended above the foyer due to the small site the theatre had to be constructed on.
The money invested was used wisely to provide a flag ship theatre in London for Young Peoples Theatre.
Only last year was there enough money for a permanent ensemble company which always was Unicorn's strength years ago.
It provides a 21st century home for many companies to perform in.Unicorn's architect wanted to provide an adult theatre for children without patronising them.

The Polka and the Little Angel Marionette Theatre deserve the same facilities that Unicorn has striven for since 1956.

Mark Griffin said...

Hi Randolph

Thanks for this. I should maybe have stressed in the blog that London is a much richer city for having The Unicorn. It's great that it's there and I genuinely hope it continues to flourish and attract investment.


BexBexBex said...

i love the polka is definately brilliant for children and introduces them to the theatre at a young age. I nanny two girls and took them to see Charlie and Lola; i expected to be bored myself but found that the show was well produced and was a brilliant puppet show! it gave inspiring ideas for me which i was not expecting and was good entertainment as well. definately recommended, with children or on your on your own.