Writer: Tim Price
Music: Gruff Rhys
Director: Wils Wilson
Reviewer: Jacqui Onions
The Insatiable, Inflatable Candylion is billed as a theatre gig for all ages and is the latest offering in this innovative new genre from National Theatre Wales and Gruff Rhys. The winning combination of Rhys’ music with Tim Price’s writing and Wils Wilson’s direction created something quite brilliant when they came together to make Praxis Makes Perfect and they almost achieve the same brilliance with The Insatiable, Inflatable Candylion.
Based on Rhys’ album, Candylion, the audience is told a tale of the surreal Pixel Valley and the hybrid animals that live there, including Polar Pear (part polar bear, part pear), Meringutan (part meringue, part orangutan), and of course Candylion (part candy floss, part lion). Each character has its own quirky ways and unique rôle to play within their circle of friends, allowing them to capture the imagination of audience members young, old and everywhere in between.
The strength of the cast has a lot to do with how well these characters have been brought to life. Remy Beasley gives a natural and believable performance, which is hugely impressive considering her character is a cross between a lion and candy floss. Special mention must also go to Matthew Bulgo and his wonderfully endearing portrayal of Caruin (part carnation, part penguin).
The original illustrations of the inhabitants of Pixel Valley are by the brilliant Pete Fowler. Carrying the style of these illustrations through to characters on stage was going to be a big ask for any designer and unfortunately, Laura Hopkins does not quite hit the mark. It would add so much to this already strong production to see more of Pete Fowler’s distinctly surreal style, not just in the costumes but the whole design.
The performance space layout allows the audience to roam as they wish, enabling them to stand, sit on crates or sit on the floor and move to see the action wherever it might be happening. This clever layout pleases those who are looking for a gig atmosphere, those who like theatre in unusual spaces and enables children to move around and even get actively involved at certain points – dancing, gathering pixels, following characters on a journey, and much more – rather than being confined to a theatre seat.
This is not just a piece of theatre, it is a theatre gig – live music is very much at the forefront. In this talented company musicians and actors are interchangeable with performers jumping in and out of the band to play characters and Rhys himself acting as narrator as well as fronting the band.
In trying to create something for all ages, exactly who this piece is for gets a little lost. There are political elements and vocabulary that will be beyond a younger audience. On the other hand, the choreography is overly safe for a younger audience and more what you would expect from CBeebies than a Gruff Rhys soundtrack. However, the positives far outweigh the negatives. The Insatiable, Inflatable Candylion is imaginative, interactive and a great way to introduce children to live music. A production that really can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Runs until 2 January 2016 | Image: Farrows Creative