Writer: Tove Jansson
Adaptor: Phil Porter
Director: Peter Glanville &Dani Parr
Reviewer: Teddy Lamb
Walking into the Polka Theatre, is like stepping back into childhood, from the spaceship that appears to have crashed through the ceiling in the toyshop, to the many illustrations and toys dotted about all over the building. What better place to revisit one of the great loves of my childhood, Jove Jansson’s Moomins. Based on the fourth book in the Moomin series, Moominsummer Madness is a perfect introduction to the theatre. Set onboard a floating stage after Moomin Valley is flooded by a freak tidal wave, Moominmama and Moominpappa must learn how to stage a play in order to be reunited with their lost children.
Four multitalented puppeteers portray the whole Moomin family, and all their friends in this charming adaptation. From the opening notes of Ben Glasstones score (sang and played mostly live) to the closing number, I don’t think I ever stopped smiling. The simplicity and imagination of the production is expertly delivered by the cast who voice numerous rôles, swapping and sharing characters throughout the performance, alongside sharing their numerous musical talents with the audience. One particularly engaging scene sees Moomintrol swimming through a flooded house to find breakfast, and on his journey he encounters schools of saucepans swimming alongside him, and sea snakes made of sausages.
The real joy of this production though comes from Emma, a character the Moomins meet when they swim to her floating stage to escape the tidal wave. Through Emma they learn the ups and downs of theatre, from the stressful writing (and rewriting), to the joy of opening nights. As the Moomins learn about wings, prompts and stage managers; so do the young audience members. We soon learn (as Young Misabel tells us) ‘It’s strange that a place so full of costumes and pretend things should feel like the most real place in the whole world’.
Runs until 16th August