Land of Lights, Arts Depot, review: ‘Gently charming’

Land of Lights

Land of Lights - Credit: Archant

Bridget Galton salutes this calming and delicate interactive show aimed at children with learning and sensory impairments.

As someone with a special needs son who finds it hard to sit still, I’m often the recipient of tuts, stares, and: ‘if you can’t control your child you should take him out’ unbelievably when attending pantos and carol concerts.

Frankly we’re awful in this country at tolerating children as they are rather than as we expect them to be.

So hurrah then for relaxed performances and companies like Oily Cart who make work for children with learning and sensory impairments.

This gently charming interactive show for under 5s is aimed at fully able children; but then a roomful of inquisitive 3 year olds proved pretty wayward and the cast effortlessly dealt with their ‘disruptions’ as they called out or ran on stage.

Donning waterproof bibs outside the theatre we met a quartet of travellers who lead us to the land of lights past clusters of yellow doll houses with darkened windows.

The children shine torches inside to see if there’s life but as they settle on cushions on the stage, we meet Pol, a doll-like puppet balloonist who explains the stars have fallen down, the people gone and her balloon is broken.

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As first a gardener, then a chef, then a bubble maker and the shiny-suited ‘Mr Bling’ arrive and the children are presented with herbs to smell and their own pots of seeds, jelly, bubbles to search for lighted stars which are hung on Pol’s basket to help her take off again.

A dulcimer supplies by turns jaunty or hauntingly magical music and song to accompany each interlude and there’s a moment of wonder when the balloon takes flight, the stars twinkle back on and the people return to their houses singing and chattering.

The polar opposite of the raucous interaction of a panto, it’s calming and delicate but still, pompous tutters who like children seen and not heard should stay away.

Rating: 4/5 stars