Little Angel Theatre, London (***)
There can be so many ways to get young children interested in ballet. The oldest and sometimes the most archaic of dance art forms, it still has an allure and glitter that rubs off on the youngest. Little Angel’s Dogs Don’t Do Ballet for the tinies (2-7 year olds) would seem to hit all the right buttons: tutus, bits of famous ballet music and to top it all, a dog who thinks he’s a ballerina.
It has, apparently, been a hit wherever it’s travelled nationwide, but my heart sank as we opened with a tired old stereotype that should have been laid to rest many years ago – the ballet teacher as drag act with an absurdly `posh’ accent because she’d been a member of `the Royal Ballet’. Honestly, that went out circa 1950!
Happily I can report once the storyline got under way and the actual puppetry and our scarlet-toqued ballet mistress was joined by her `assistant’, the funny, quirky Andrea Sadler, things improved immensely.
Andrea (co-adaptor with director David Duffy) has a gamine, mischievous quality and Keith Frederick’s puppets are a delight and ingenious, be it the little girl who wants to take her pet dog to her ballet lessons, the dog itself, a wonderful row of young dancers doing barre work or, hilariously, Sadler introducing the instruments of an orchestra as lollipops.
Sadler and Ronnie Le Drew (he the ballet mistress) work beautifully together and you can see the love and attention Le Drew brings to his craft helping his young students at the barre to `point their feet’ better. Frederick too designs a really beautiful creation for his prima ballerina whilst both dog and the little girl play to the wistful and dreamy in all of us.
With piano excerpts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker and the Clog Dance from La Fille Mal Gardée used as sound backdrops with some sweet moments of humour, it’s really is a show to entrance and a great, even slightly subversive and affectionate introduction to this most elusive and demanding of art forms.
My two young companions, coming up for six, declared they’d `loved it’, though they did find the nightmare that overcame the little dog, howling to the moon for days when he was refused entrance to the ballet class, rightly scary.
Now if they could just amend that opening, it would be perfect. Dogs shouldn’t do ballet. Oh yes do!
Dogs Don’t Do Ballet
Ronnie Le Drew
Adapted by David Duffy and Andrea Sadler
Directed by David Duffy Written by Anna Kemp
Puppets designed and made by Keith Frederick
Set design and build by by Tim Sykes
Music performed by Alex Carter
Lighting design by David Duffy
This play is based on the original book Dogs Don’t Do Ballet © 2010 text by Anna Kemp, illustrations by Sara Ogilvie. First published in the United Kingdom by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd
Produced by Little Angel Theatre
For more see www.littleangeltheatre.com
Recommended for 2-7 year olds
Runs to July 16, 2017
Review first published on this site, May 2, 2017.