Giraffes have big hearts. Literally, otherwise they wouldn’t be able pump blood all the way to their far away heads. Yet despite having the maximum mechanical apparatus, the long-necked beast in Floods of Ink’s new children’s show is having difficulty feeling love for himself or the world around him. Living at the bottom of the garden, he ignores the attentions of Girl (Amber-Rose May) even as she sends him letter after letter asking him to come out and play.
Girl can’t work out why the Giraffe (Laurence Alliston-Greiner) would rather be alone, but she’s not put off by his reticence. Their friendship has one false start when she snaps at him to essentially ‘just try harder’ to see the same twinkling lights that she can see in the sky, but aside from that it’s her patience and kindness towards Giraffe that helps him to start feeling better.
Giraffe, we learn, has the kind of illness that won’t go away with a plaster on his knee or some ointment on his hooves. It’s an illness that’s actually in his head (and not because of increased blood pressure when he bends down to drink).
The fact that Floods Of Ink’s show exists at all, shows how far we have come in changing our attitudes towards mental health. The only depressive I can think of from my childhood viewing habits was old pessimistic Eeyore or maybe the Grouch in his dustbin. But these characters weren’t presented as ones to be particularly sympathetic towards and so the donkey just dwelt in his Gloomy Place: Rather Boggy and Sad until Walt Disney came along and made him a bit more cutesy.
Not only is Giraffe represented as being ill rather than just No Fun, we see the impact his behaviour has on others. The short scene where Girl gets angry with him dispels the idea of her as just an angel always open to helping others. Helping Giraffe is actually pretty hard work. Even when things are looking up and they’ve started baking together (one activity always worth getting out of bed for), Giraffe is liable to get a bit wobbly when she pops out briefly to attend to other things.
It’s aimed at 3-6 years olds, so the subject of depression isn’t going to be interrogated, but it’s enough that it’s there and asserting its existence. The big draw of the show in theatrical terms is the puppetry: a lolloping sorrow-filled giraffe and Granny Owl fashioned from the type of scarf Liz would wear around Balmoral.
Charming and humorous, the Girl and the Giraffe proves that what we need when helping one another is exactly what our long-necked friend already has: a big heart.
For more information on The Girl and the Giraffe, click here.