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Underneath the Floorboards

Published by: Steve Burbridge on 26th Jan 2011 | View all blogs by Steve Burbridge

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Underneath the Floorboards – BalletLORENT at Northern Stage, Newcastle

Anything that helps get kids hooked on theatre and the arts, at the earliest age possible, is a good thing in my opinion. So much the better when the production is of the quality of balletLORENT’s ‘Underneath the Floorboards’.

Aimed at the under 5’s, this enchanting show tells the story of John (Jon Beney) as he prepares to pack up his toys in readiness for moving house. Whilst in the process, he discovers a strange world beneath his bedroom floor. But, when he can’t find his way back, he worries he’ll be left behind . . . until a host of weird, wonderful and curious creatures begin to appear from the shadows.

Firstly, he meets a shy fawn (beautifully brought to life by the amazingly agile Gwen Berwick), then a mischievous, shaggy character called Gruffy (Gavin Coward) and, finally, the enigmatic Mimic (Philippa White), who mirrors the movement of those she meets.

Ben Crompton’s story is beautifully beguiling and is simple enough for the youngsters to engage with and, because it isn’t contrived or patronising in the least, it is strangely absorbing for adults, too. The piece integrates Kit Haigh’s music and catchy songs seamlessly and Matt Britten’s lighting design creates evocative atmospheres extremely effectively.

Paul Shriek’s costume design incorporates a range of fabrics, textures and colours to stimulate the youngsters’ sense of touch and sight and, indeed, they are actively encouraged to be tactile with them.

The show has an intimate setting, to ensure a comfortable viewing experience for both children and adults, with ease of access to encourage the young people to freely interact with the performers and the story.  The theatre space has been kitted out with a soft floor, cushions and a seated area.  This approach continues to champion the defined methodology delivered by balletLORENT and Northern Stage intended to entertain and inform this age group.

 

Liv Lorent’s choreography compliments characterisation and it is the perfect way of introducing movement and dance to small children. It has been carefully constructed to enable them to safely get close to the dancers without putting themselves in harm’s way.

 

Indeed, every aspect of this delightful dance production is commendable and the most ringing endorsement of all came from the youngsters, some of whom engaged with the piece so actively that they almost stole the limelight from the four highly-talented dancers.

 

Steve Burbridge.

 

Reviewed at Northern Stage on Wednesday 26 January 2011. Transfers to Gateshead Old Town Hall on Thursday 27 & Friday 28 January 2011.

 

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