Presented by: Theatre Lovett
Written by: Frances Kay
Directed by: Muireann Ahern and Louis Lovett
Reviewed by: Monica Insinga
Theatre Lovett is back in town, after their major USA tour, with a new show combining classic storytelling, musical theatre, and their unique style that has insured the company’s success with theatre for young audiences since its inception.
When the mixed audience of adults and children enter the child-size amphitheatre of The Ark, they are presented with a vision of an elegant restaurant completed with antique silverware. Standing in the dark behind the centre table is a Boy dressed in uniform (Felix, played by Oscar Ó Luain), looking at the audience, waiting, seemingly disappearing at the start of the play.
An unusual announcement advises the audience that the play is about to start and also to “be brave, be bold”. Two voices (of Andrew Bennett and of young Amélie Metcalfe) start telling the tale of Henny Penny, a dark fable of survival from Walter de la Mare’s collection, Animal Stories that inspired this exclusive retelling written by Frances Kay after an original idea by Theatre Lovett.
To contrast the sombre atmosphere created by these first few elements, the cast enters singing Le Monde Bouleversé, a ballad in honour of this French restaurant in Dublin where the play is set in 1918. This is a magical space, where, as the name in French suggests, “The World is Turned Upside Down”, a safe harbour for the two French musicians/refugees, played by Musical Director Nico Brown and Martin Brunsden, and for the “waitress”, Henny Penny, played by the mesmerising Lisa Lambe.
From the moment Henny Penny polishes her knives and invites in her “special” customer for the night, Monsieur Le Renard/Mr. Fox (played by the charismatic, larger than life Louis Lovett), we start feeling that this is probably not a safe place for Lovett’s character. The tension resulting from the conflict hidden between the lines of Lambe and Lovett forms the core of this drama, beautifully interpreted by the captivating performers. A special note to the indispensable music composed by Brown, which provides an extra layer of meaning to the play, and great entertainment for the mixed audience.
This show has excellent direction, elegantly combining dark humour with meaningful dramatic elements, resulting in a hopeful final image with the reunion between Mr. Fox, his son Felix, and Henny Penny, leaving the children as well as the adults in the audience wined and dined, and ready for more. A must see.