I must admit I had my reservations about taking Reuben to see “Kite”. At 6 and a half, he’s a bit young for the recommended age group and the mime aspect was slightly worrying – he prefers his shows noisy. So this would be a first venture into the world of more mature theatre and I was feeling cautious.
Still, any excuse for a mother-son bonding day, especially when it involves leaving Nathan to deal with an over hyped Eva that’s just been to a princess party. So it was with a pretty light heart that we skipped through Soho and played our usual game of “finding interesting things to see”. Here’s today’s – a new neon sign:
and a video installation of a woman power walking:
Always something new, Soho. Thanks.
So, onto “Kite”. You’ll be pleased to know that both of us enjoyed it but I did find it emotionally challenging. The first ten minutes or so are very melancholy with a girl and her grandmother both dealing with their mutual grief but separately, unable to connect. It’s a very real portrayal of loss, with some stunning central performances from Charlotte Croft and Liz Crowther. I was particularly impressed with how Charlotte managed to look constantly on the brink of tears. Did she have an onion in that rucksack? Throughout the first part, I kept hugging Roo and looking at him to see how he was coping but he was fine. Just as well I didn’t take EmpathyOverloadEva as she would have been ruined – she cries at the end of “Bear Hunt” because the bear feels sad. She’d have found the real emotion of “Kite” a bit overwhelming, I think. There was a guy with a 3-year-old there and he said she enjoyed it but it definitely was too mature for my little drama queen.
It took a while for the first laugh – when the girl defies her grandmother’s attempts to feed her by putting her stool on the table – but once that happened, the tension broke slightly. From then on, I felt like I could just relax and enjoy – in fact, I was amazed by how engaged Reuben was with the whole thing. He laughed heartily as the girl got tangled up in her cloud duvet (nice thematic touch) and he really enjoyed the puppets as the girl took off with the kite and soared over London. He’s still a bit obsessed with London Landmarks, so it was nice to see St Paul’s Cathedral playing a central role in the story.
Everything was very cleverly done – sets shifted from wall to train to wall to rooftop and back again. A fridge became a tube carriage and a clock later morphed into Big Ben. The action shifted between the actors and the puppets of both girl and grandmother. Mime enthusiasts would obviously be disappointed if the classic “walking against the wind” sequence was omitted, but the blustery nature of the show provided plenty of opportunity to showcase that. Obviously the performances were very physical and I was impressed by Liz especially as she showed the kind of physical flexibility that not all grandmothers have (along with the emotional flexibility, of course). The two characters were ably supported by Nicola Blackwell and Linden Walcott-Burton filling the roles of both intangible force and stage manager at the same time. They were the breeze that blew a scarf, the presence that stood by the girl and felt her pain, but also the practical people who moved all those complex sets about.
The resolution of the play was the only one it could be – the two characters reuniting not only physically but emotionally. The end, as they stood together to breathe in the fresh air outside, felt full of hope and optimism. The mother’s picture restored on the fridge was a symbol of grief remembered but no longer oppressive. I shed a tear. Of course I did, I’m an easy crier.
At the end there was a chance to meet the actors and puppets, which Roo jumped at. He tried out a bird with Liz, the grandmother, and took a good look at the puppets. Here’s puppet-Liz:
And the real version, showing Roo how to use her light-up umbrella:
It was a lovely way to end the play, and I imagine that if kids had been traumatized by the emotion of it all, going to meet the actors and realising that they can both speak and smile would be really helpful. And they were all super lovely – we chatted to Linden for a bit as well as Liz. I’m not sure if every show has the same bit at the end, but if they do it’s definitely worth staying.
After that, Roo and I headed down towards Piccadilly Circus so that we could pop into Gosh! on the way. I didn’t buy anything because Nathan has Certain Rules about buying Roo comics and continuity and all that crap and also because Nathan would kill me if he realised I’d gone to a comic shop with Roo without him. Luckily I won’t see him for a few hours now so I reckon I can get away with confessing it here.
Then we walked past the most amazing-looking cake shop, on the corner of Green’s Court and Brewer St. I think it used to be a shoe shop that sold DMs but now it’s Cutter and Squidge, which tempted me in with this beauty:
I bought a slice of Eton Mess Dreamcake, which was indeed dreamy. Reuben said he didn’t want any because “he’d had enough sugar for today”. Thanks school. So we went on the hunt for a shop that sold fruit in Piccadilly Circus and failed to find one, despite Roo’s helpful suggestion of “maybe a grocer, like the one in Mr Mean”. The Co-op is Berwick Street has been temporarily closed (let’s not discuss why) and even the market had packed up. So, let’s end on a positive – here’s a great business opportunity for a budding entrepeneur. Open a fruit shop in Soho! Sky-high rents, perishable stock with low margins, a floating trade…what could go wrong?
More information on Kite here.
Disclaimer: I received free tickets in exchange for a review. All opinions remain honest and my own.