live review // Thumbelina’s Great Big Adventure, The Junction
words // Daisy T-G
Gracing the stage of the Cambridge Junction for this year’s Christmas show has been the latest expedition from the triumphant Dancing Brick, who have charmed us with their fantastical take on children’s classic tale Thumbelina. The story follows a charismatic explorer who falls into a world slightly too big for her button-sized boots, coming face-to-face with nature much quicker than she expected when she leaps out of her Granny’s window in search of an independent adventure.
Dancing Brick steer us through the pleasant peaks of Thumbelina’s ever-changing path, where she meets a multitude of marvellous friends to help her on her way. The cast work effortlessly together to construct the adventures of Thumbelina; as an audience we are truly captured by the visions of Valentina Ceschi and Thomas Eccleshare who allow our imaginations to swell as we are dazzled by their hand-crafted theatrics. The pair are an entrancing duo and a pleasure to watch, meaning that at no point does the production shrink. The company never shy away from a challenge, whether that involves transporting us from lily pads to lakes, or mountains to molehills; Dancing Brick strive for visual magic and the results they achieve are suitably remarkable.
A delightfully playful soundtrack (composed and carefully arranged by the talented Tom Penn) guides us through Thumbelina’s adventure with ease, chiming at exactly the right moments to bring us audible treasures that stretch from the engaging soundscape haze of the radio airwaves right to the furious beats of a jazz-riddled cabaret. Penn juggles delicate piano with varied percussion, topped off with an impressive vocal range, revealing himself as a real gem in this production. The costumes are also particularly noteworthy, each carefully stitched to ensure each scene is brimming with endless detail. The performers are awash with props to punctuate their story, successfully matching the fullness of the accompanying soundtrack. The energy of the cast prove Dancing Brick to be a booming company with tremendous potential.
Initially the story bounces along pleasantly but as we approach the central point of the production things turn deliciously sour for our intrepid Thumbelina, preparing us for the grizzly introduction to the burrow, where we spend the majority of the final act. The second half propels us into an explosive opening cabaret sequence to secure the audience in the grip of the Molehill, laced with the American-style rogues of a dark criminal underground. We are introduced to a flurry of eclectic characters which show the company really playing to their strengths creating fast-paced caricatured comedy.
As we journey further into the dark depths of ‘The Molehill Cabaret Bar’ the plot seems to unravel for a rather wayward portion of the second half which, whilst proving highly entertaining for the adults, failed to hold the entire attention of the younger audience. Nevertheless, once certain creases had been ironed out, the story ties up nicely with our tiny heroine escaping the claws of the Mole and his underground mob just in time, on the luminous wings of a glammed-up old stage bird (one of my favourite characters from the curiously amusing Rew Lowe), reuniting her at last with her Granny.
Thumbelina’s Great Big Adventure is a thoroughly polished and superb production that would enchant an audience of any level of sophistication. From the moment the company peak through the leaves of their colourful world, they present a playful glimpse into the well-loved words of Hans Christian Anderson, captivating both children and adults alike.