Writer: Michael Morpurgo
Director: Emma Rice
Reviewer: Hannah Powell
A mesmerising tale following the adventures of a little twelve-year-old girl and her cat, Tips, 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips is an explosion of physical theatre, dance, projection, puppetry and more. The classic Michael Morpurgo story is brought vividly to life transporting the audience to 1943 and the small town of Slapton in south Devon.
Lily Tregenza (Katy Owen), the main protagonist, is forever losing her cat, Tips. On top of this, her dad is away at war, her grandad is working himself to death trying to keep their farm running, and her town is being invaded by American soldiers and “Townie Evacuees”. She bursts onto the stage with energy, unmissable with her huge voice yelling out for Tips. She is an incredibly likeable character from start to finish with her brash ways and boisterous attitude with just a sprinkle of vulnerability added into the mix. At points she does appear younger than twelve, fidgeting the way a slightly younger child would, however, her charming personality and quirky ways make up for it.
Captivating performances come from Ncuti Gatwa and Nandi Bhebhe as lovable American duo, Adi and Harry. The moment they step onto the stage they give one hundred percent, covering the length of the stage with their energetic swing dances and acrobatic tricks. On top of this, the relationship between them is clear, with the bond translating as far more than friends, practically brothers, amplifying the comedy, joy, and heartbreak of their performance. While quiet at times, their emotion can be observed through their physical body language, and how relaxed they look with each other, at times rolling all over each other in desperate attempts to catch that elusive cat.
The set is quite creative, with a giant aeroplane propeller dominating the centre of the space, it’s immediately apparent that it’s placed in a time of war, with sand bags and barbed wire covering the front of the stage. Buckets of water are used innovatively to convey an incredibly emotional story of a real event which was kept a secret from the public for many years. Live music features heavily with most actors involved playing some sort of musical instrument ranging from drums, guitar, to violin, and the saxophone, seeking once to again transport one to the time period and suspend one there for the duration of the performance.
Underneath the dance, the special effects, and everything which makes this show physical, the play is simply a story about love. Familiar love, friendship, Puppy love, love for your country: they all feature heavily building relationships not only between characters but also between character and audience. Kneehigh has worked hard to build that connection, destroying the line between actor and spectator transforming every audience member into an individual within the story.
Runs until 15 October 2016 | Image: Steve Tanner