Ben Ray

at 20:06 on 17th Aug 2016

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The task of entertaining children and adults simultaneously for half an hour inside an intimate, sweltering tent is not an easy one. However, The Girl with the Hurricane Hands (and other short tales of woe) manages to achieve this. The title pretty much sums up the premise of the show: a series of short, simple stories told in a friendly, approachable way by the group Studiospace.

Encompassing a range of fantastical ideas and anecdotes, from the boy who discovers he’s a teabag to the girl who has telescopes for eyes, each story is entertaining and absorbing. The moral messages wrapped up in each tale, if slightly clunky and obvious at certain times, give each adventure the feeling of a charming fable- messages of friendship, love and inclusion are gently displayed amongst various flights of fancy. The beauty of these stories is in the simplicity of their messages, and in their telling.

The magic in all these stories, and the reason the show manages to hold the attention of this slightly hungover reviewer, is the captivating way in which they are told. With the entire show spoken in rhyming couplets, the stories take on the cosy quality of bedtime fairy tales. This immediately puts the audience at ease, and creates a flowing narrative that effortlessly carries you along from one tale to another.

The cast’s interaction and movements really bring these stories to life. Each action and word elicits facial and bodily reactions, perfectly complimenting the rhyming couplets, which may have otherwise been in danger of becoming over simplistic and stale. The cast’s flawless teamwork and synchronicity draws the audience in, and makes the beginning of each new story an adventure. I find myself leaning forward with the children in the audience to hear the next rhyme. The fact that bright props and colourful ribbons are only used in the final story is, perhaps, a small mistake- it would have been nice to see each story imbued with slightly more colour.

Although this show is designed for young children and families, it really is a delight for all ages- and, at only half an hour, makes a nice interlude from the heavy, introspective shows other student collaborations can produce. My only issue with this production is the title: far from being tales of ‘woe’, I leave feeling buoyed up and brighter than before.

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Serena Basra

at 10:19 on 18th Aug 2016

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A show that slips into surrealism from the outset, Studiospace’s latest production is a masterful piece of verse which is well-crafted and engaging. Those who are perceived as different (think telescopes for eyes, rather than simply a dodgy haircut) triumph in a heart-warming production which celebrates the beauty of individualism. A great red book ties the production together; this archetypal symbol of childhood marks the opening of the various tales in a manner that adds a sense of coherence to an otherwise bizarre play.

The cast are truly endearing. Equipped with bright eyes and boundless energy, they create a truly mesmerising piece. The actors flit between expressions of childlike adoration and humorous frustration within seconds - Tullio Campanale is perhaps most skilled at this – and it is not difficult to imagine this cast of young adults as a group of young children. The ensemble work well together, moving as if they are part of one great organism, contorting their bodies into shapes ranging from a swimming pool to a sofa. It is a fine piece of physical theatre, yet it is disappointing that poor seating arrangements lead to a great deal of floor work being partially obscured to many audience members. Nevertheless, in this intimate space few props are needed, and those that are employed add wonderful dashes of comic humour or romantic tenderness.

Special credit must be awarded to Phoebe Simmonds, writer and director, who has created a truly wonderful, slick piece of theatre. At moments the verse does appear somewhat clunky, and certain rhymes are paired less successfully than others, yet on the whole the piece flows well. Nevertheless, underneath it all lies an important message of acceptance, as the unconventional hero takes centre stage. Fears and insecurities are challenged as we watch Justin Time in a battle against the cruel gym teacher, and a teabag learn how to rise above teasing comments on the playground. The stories are refreshing and exciting, but most importantly are full of hope.

Fans of Lewis Carroll are sure to enjoy this playful piece. Whilst it may not be your first thought to start your next morning with ‘tales of woe’, if you suspend your disbelief as you enter this production you will undoubtedly leave with your spirits high.

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