ChildrensFamilyNorth WestReview

Your Toys – The Lowry, Salford

Devised by Slot Machine Theatre

Directors: Nicola Blackwell, Fiona Creese and Nick Tigg

Reviewer: Jay Nuttall

“Bring your toy to the theatre” says the blurb, “we’ll take it, and all the other toys on a gigantic adventure”. The marketing is great and the premise of this show is wonderful. A family show for five-to-nine-year-olds, you can bring a prized possession to the theatre and see it transported onto stage and star in the show!

My children took great care in expertly choosing which toy to bring. “Every girl will bring a dolly” chirped one. “We have to take something different” concluded the other. Upon arrival their toys were introduced to the cast and gently taken away, promised to be looked after; huge anticipation on how they would become integral to whatever narrative may be concocted over the next sixty minutes.

Almost distinguishable from the set cleverly made from cardboard boxes, the four monochrome performers/puppeteers and one musician should blend in nicely to the background amongst the brightly coloured toys brought into the theatre by the children. Their brown overalls contain deep pockets to secrete the treasures – stuffed toys aplenty and more quirky trinkets too. Beginning with a storm two stuffed toys are washed upon a mysterious island. Imagination is at the heart of this piece as various shaped boxes are manoeuvred and moved to create the tide as a bear and a rabbit are washed ashore after a shipwreck. Puppetered with excellence they are new inhabitants on a strange island that has rumblings of a monster. Quickly meeting the inhabitants of the island there is genuine excitement and a lovely frisson as each child in the audience glimpses their toy for the first time.

Unfortunately, this seemed to be the highlight of the show and the following fifty-five minutes became a scripted journey of bear, rabbit and now a T-Rex dinosaur roaming the island cracking the mystery of a monster we occasionally heard. What was hoped to be a spontaneous, improvised and genuinely fun show became a rather boring trudge along a cardboard boxed world with the three stuffed toys the cast had selected to play the main characters. It didn’t seem to matter why they had been selected other than their possible manipulative qualities. There seemed no rhyme or reason to selecting these three characters as bear didn’t bring any growling, rabbit any sniffling or T Rex any … whatever a T Rex did. Whatever vessel was selected it seemed the show would have been the same – which is where

What was hoped to be a spontaneous, improvised and genuinely fun show became a rather boring trudge along a cardboard boxed world with the three stuffed toys the cast had selected to play the main characters. It didn’t seem to matter why they had been selected other than their possible manipulative qualities. There seemed no rhyme or reason to selecting these three characters as bear didn’t bring any growling, rabbit any sniffling or T Rex any … whatever a T Rex did. Whatever vessel was selected it seemed the show would have been the same – which is where

Whatever vessel was selected it seemed the show would have been the same – which is where Your Toys was so disappointing. In the hands of comedians and genuine improvisers this could have been an hour of genuine fun as the various strange objects riff amongst each other, genuinely concocting a new story against a pre-prepared framework. However, this show was far from that. A rather dull story about a monster that had eaten the inhabitants of the island ensued. We briefly met our ‘friends’ again twice more but by the time our toys were lined up at the end as stars of the show my eight-year-old had already told me that they had “cheated” and that everything had been scripted. Out of the mouths of babes… I couldn’t agree more.

Such a shame as what promised to be a fun and exciting show that should be different every time performed turned out to be a rather dull story that I would expect to be the same – save the three main stuffed toys they decide to inhabit. On the one hand a possible lovely first experience of live theatre for some children, on the other a frustrating hour of wanting much much more.

Reviewed on 29th October 2017 | Image: Contributed

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