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Wallstories
Published on Thursday, 12 May 2011
4

4 stars

The Nightingale (venue website)
Childrens
8, 22, 29 May, 3:00pm-3:45pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

Here's the great thing about reviewing children's shows: the little ones make it perfectly clear whether it's something they would recommend. About halfway through the charming Wallstories, as the youngsters broke off from impromptu shadow-puppetry and settled down in obedient hush, the answer to that question became clear.  Yes, we have a hit on our hands.

And what held them rapt?  Not a Playstation or the latest Disney, but a simple magic-lantern from Hungary.  As our host Kata Gyöngyösi  explained, in her Communist-era homeland there was no TV on Mondays... so they entertained themselves with these antique story-reels, full of cartoon-like images and subtitles for the whole family to read along.

The subtitles are in English of course, but the occasionally-curious translations do include a few words which were overly ambitious for the young audience.  That hardly mattered, though - there was no shortage of volunteers eager to take on a character, with some dads even joining in the fun.  The stories ranged from firm-favourite Snow White through to a Russian morality tale, which had the kids shouting out their guesses about whether the greedy fishwife would get her come-uppance on the next slide.

With the children sitting on cushions in front of the stage, it had the relaxed feel of a party rather than a show - and it was none the worse for that.  In fact, perhaps Gyöngyösi could have made a little more of the parents' obvious willingness to help things along; a volunteer to point at the words or even to work the machine would have freed her to engage more with the story.  And the pace, I suspect, was a tad too fast.  More than once I saw the machine spool forward, just as the youngsters were pointing out details of those fascinating pictures on-screen.

I was left, though, with one overriding thought: why don't we have these contraptions over here?  In our high-tech age, it's the simple things which hold true magic - and if these unfamiliar stories trigger such delight, imagine what would happen if you cracked out the Gruffalo.  For now though, you'll have to pop down to the Nightingale to see the lantern work its exotic magic - and given how popular the first show proved, I wouldn't wait too long to book your place.

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FROM OUR ARCHIVES

These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2011.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.