thu 02/02/2023

Boing!, Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre | reviews, news & interviews

Boing!, Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre

Boing!, Lilian Baylis Studio Theatre

Enchanting and exuberant festive physical theatre for kids

Wilkie Branson and Joel Daniel bounce around in 'Boing!'

Boing! shows that for a successful dance theatre production for children, you don't need very much. In fact, all that's required is a simple bed frame centre stage and a particularly bouncy mattress.

Travelling Light and Bristol Old Vic teamed up with children's theatre specialist Sally Cookson to create this 45-minute show, which plays out to a young audience perfectly, with just the right amount of narrative, clowning, slapstick comedy and break-dance.

It's the night before Christmas but you can forget about creatures stirring – the two boys here, Wilkie and Joel, are hardly nestled up all snug in their beds. They know that Santa will only come when they're asleep, but they just can't seem to doze off – they're far too excited.

Using the bed as the centre of the action, they bound around, hang up stockings, doze, frolic and throw their teddies about. Engaging in acro-play-fighting and break-dance infused bouncing their unrestrained energy is infectious and the children in the audience, aged from around three to seven, are in fits of giggles in no time. Miming the night time rituals their audience will be used to, the kids are tickled pink by toothpaste spitting, teddy-finding and a bit of sibling scrapping.

the magic of their yuletide fantasy is enchanting and heart-warming

The athleticism of Joel Daniel and Wilkie Branson (who choreographed the piece as well as performing it) is not lost on the audience, as their whirling legs and bed-bound backsprings elicit gasps of joy and wonder. Their physical theatre is perfectly blended into the storytelling, and when they burst into real dance routines, it's clear that their technique is every bit as good as their character creation.

Joel and Wilkie traverse the landscape of their imagination through nothing but the magic of simple play, as their duvet becomes a skipping rope, a boat sailing through the night or a superhero costume. The magic of their yuletide fantasy is enchanting and heart-warming.

It's endearing, simple, fun and packed with pizazz. It's naughty where it needs to be, with cheeky children who just want to play, appropriately flashy with a fast and funky LED-lit robot break dance scene, and reassuringly soft when required, with the two boys resignedly nodding off after their excitable antics. Sprinkled with festive cheer, it's a real gem of a show.

Boing! is at Sadler's Wells until 5 January

Overleaf: watch an excerpt from Boing!

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