The King of Tiny Things – Udderbelly Festival

Ludo Helin and Maddie McGowanLittle kings, queens and tiny things will have a great time watching The King of Tiny Things, a theatrical adaptation of the book from author Jeanne Willis by Metta Theatre and director Poppy Burton-Morgan. Older children and adults, meanwhile, may not be so easily impressed. Catering for both audiences is always a challenge and this production doesn’t quite strike a balance.

The loose plot follows two girls as they camp in the garden overnight, exploring its depths and creepy crawly wonders following the titular “King of Tiny Things”, a small fairy boy (here, a puppet). Cleverly, Burton-Morgan has assigned each of the creatures with a different circus discipline, all performed by a cast of just four: there’s a juggling slug, a stilt-walking daddy-long-legs, and acrobatic bats amongst others. Little ones will be gasping at the tricks, but although some are especially impressive – some excellent juggling and superb balancing in particular – each routine is more gymnastic than circus and never quite builds towards an applause-worthy ‘moment’.

Visually, though, The King of Tiny Things is a colourful delight that certainly appeals to childhood imaginations. The plot, however, is lost amongst the acrobatics. As the girls and the King must aid each creature in an individual plight, it’s clear this is an allegorical tale for overcoming fear and accepting difference, even if in practise the show’s structure is not so clearly delineated. With this production, the focus seems to be the physicality of the creatures – creatively done, but a little shallow.

There’s also some cute music from composer Jon Nicholls that adds to the show’s charm; no doubt you’ll leave singing the “follow me” theme for hours to come. It doesn’t quite cover up a lack of polish though, as transitions between scenes are stilted and uneven sound levels between music and singing makes it difficult to discern lyrics. It’s nothing that will put off youngsters – those in this particular performance were enthralled by the spectacle. Cynical adults may have just lost their sense of magic.

Reviewed by Ed Nightingale
The Gizzle Review

Photo: Richard Davenport