REVIEW: Little Robin Redbreast
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Little Robin Redbreast – The Salberg, Salisbury Playhouse
Reviewed by David Cradduck
Billed as a ‘magical adventure’ and ‘the perfect introduction to live theatre for young children’, all I can say is that they have nailed it, both in terms of the description and of the show itself.
The Salberg, a wonderfully atmospheric venue and the small sibling to Salisbury Playhouse’s main stage, plays host for three weeks to Little Robin Redbreast, which to me proves that childhood innocence is in many quarters still truly intact, that kids’ theatre can be entertaining without being risqué or brash and that big budget shows often play second fiddle to the carefully scripted and beautifully performed ‘small shows’ like this. If my kids were small again, I would be very excited to take them to see this. Actually, they would probably enjoy it now, even in their late 20s.
A talented cast of four play, with huge enthusiasm and an obviously strong team bond, all the parts: the story starts with Robin, a five year old (brilliant casting in the form of Joe Etherington), his piano playing dad (Dan Smith), bespectacled career mum (Elaine Glover) and sister Molly (Philippa Hogg) who is straight out of a Minnie the Minx cartoon.
Robin and Molly are given advent calendars and as Robin opens his, the stage backdrop mirrors the doors opening on his calendar and leads Robin through a magical story where he becomes Little Robin Redbreast who falls out of his nest and has an amazing winter adventure foraging for food and water, avoiding being eaten, learning about life in the big outdoors and all the while trying to get back to his family nest.
Characters come and go aplenty – a rap-singing squirrel, a tap dancing mouse with her eye on the big lights, a crafty cat, a pair of reindeer with delightfully Nordic accents, flashing antlers and Christmas jumpers.
Accompanying the catchy, upbeat songs is Dad, doubling as musical director, (and occasionally Mum when Dan is busy playing someone else) on piano. There is plenty of audience participation but it is all very friendly and informal – parents need not fear for their children’s safety or tantrums. Characters make their entrances from all over and use the auditorium, gallery included, to make the whole show informally interactive and atmospheric.
The humour works on several levels; adults enjoy the more subtle jokes whilst their kids visibly soak up the magic of live theatre close up.
Salisbury’s artistic director, Gareth Machin, has obviously worked his cast quite hard to make it all look easy, but with an equally obvious amount of fun. At just under an hour long, the show is just about the right length for tiny tots and on most days there are morning and early matinée performances (no evening shows).
The in-house Salisbury team have once again put a lot of thought into their Christmas show and this delightful, semi-educational romp through the eyes of a young Robin is, to me, what live theatre is all about. Simple in concept, thoroughly suitable for toddlers upwards, a small Christmas show with huge appeal.
Little Robin Redbreast runs until Sunday 31st December – FIND OUT MORE ON THIS LINK or call the box office on 01722 320333.