If you’ve ever had to put a baby to sleep you’ll know the irreplaceable value of a bedtime ritual. As a parent, it is a time when all your doubts in your performance skills fade away as you are forced centre stage of your baby’s personal theatre, by the sheer need to send them finally to the land of nod and try to get some time to yourself. Some of us, with difficult sleepers, will also know all too well what a feat it can be to actually get the magic rezultzzzz. It is no wonder then that Sleepyhead’s own bedtime ritual has the unfortunate Dad needing to don a tall hat and a magician’s robe.
Written, directed and designed by Michael Fowkes – a puppetry maker of Mighty Boosh and RSC fame – this piece is more of an adventure story than a lullaby. At its centre is the story of a tired Dad and a plucky Baby, driven along by endless curiosity, playfulness and fantasy. Although supposedly the plot is all about avoiding sleep, the sequence of events is decidedly dreamlike. The Rabbit jumping out of the tall hat to add more mischief to the proceedings brings to mind Alice in Wonderland with a culinary twist. Boiled carrots and creamy gateaux are served for comic effect and it all somehow ends in soap bubbles and disco-lights much to the delight of shrieking 2 – 5 year olds.
Phil Yarrow and Roddy Peters are unusually smiley and vivacious puppeteers whose penchant for quiet tomfooleries only adds to the sense of impeding chaos. The main thing that keeps proceedings under control seems to be Mikey Kirkpatrick’s jazzy, dreamy score.
It is a bitter irony that both my two and four year old go into overdrive mode when they are feeling sleepy. A combination of the theatre’s own customary darkness and the showtime coinciding with a potential naptime, has once again – like many times before – resulted in superhuman struggle to keep them pinned down to their seats. So if you ask me what the show was like: quite exciting, a touch too long, perhaps, but true to life, certainly. If you ask them: more of the same, please, and for heaven’s sake, can I play with those toys!?
Sleepyhead is on until 4 February 2018 at the Little Angel Theatre. Click here for more details.