There is something adorable about the vulnerability of children. When the lights went out at the start of Moominsummer Madness at the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon, a little girl turned to her father and asked “where has the sun gone daddy?”
The Polka Theatre is full of old chrildrens toys. Rocking horses and dressing up boxes that the children happily run around playing with before the show. The most wonderful collection of old teddy bears are cased upstairs featuring original teddies from the likes of Sooty and Sweep, Mr Bean and SuperTed. Being able to look at these rare bears was a treat I was not expecting to find but was glorious to stand and look at.
Moominsummer Madness is based on the 1954 book series and 1990 TV show. I never really watched the Moomins and so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the show. What I also wasn’t expecting was a beautifully crafted production with all the magic you could ask for in the puppetry of the Moomin characters. The cast of four (Nick Ash, Ruth Calkin, Claire Harvey and Lori Hopkins) effortlessly move the puppets causing even me at moments to believe (or at least hope) they were real.
When a Volcano erupts and causes Moominvalley to flood, the Moomin family find themselves floating apart. The children, Moomintroll and Snork Maiden, are separated from their parents and must find a way back to them. Moomin Mamma and Moomin Papa end up being washed up into an old theatre where Emma, the owner, teaches them all about acting. This excites Moomin Papa and they decide to write a play and perform it, hoping word will get out to their children who will come to the theatre to find them. Of course, this is a children’s show and so they all find their way back to each other, the flood goes away and everyone lives happily ever after!
At an hour and a half long, the show is a little too long for 4-8 year olds to sit through. They seemed to lose focus and concentration after the interval and the little girl next to me seemed more interested in standing up and slamming her seat against the back of the chair repeatedly. Perhaps a one act play would have worked better. There were some wonderful scenes during the show, including when Moomintroll dived down to the kitchen to collect the breakfast things and also the scene where Moomin Papa is writing the play with hundreds of pieces of paper flying up in the air.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself at Moominsummer Madness and if you have young children i’m sure they will too. Its a lovely way to start your day off!
Reviewed by West End Wilma
Moominsummer Madness is playing at the Polka Theatre until 16 August 2014. For more information and to book tickets click here.