sun 11/04/2021

Jeramee, Hartleby and Oooglemore, Brighton Festival review - impeccably crafted silliness | reviews, news & interviews

Jeramee, Hartleby and Oooglemore, Brighton Festival review - impeccably crafted silliness

Jeramee, Hartleby and Oooglemore, Brighton Festival review - impeccably crafted silliness

Beach-set show for children musters more laughs from grown-ups than expected

There are two types of family-friendly entertainment; the kind you’d happily watch a bit of whether you have small children in tow or not (The Simpsons, The Clangers, Laurel & Hardy, etc), and those where you grit your teeth, hold your nose, and wither a little inside for the sake of attendant little ones (Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy, The Tweenies, Postman flippin’ Pat, etc). Attending this show, I had no idea which side of the fence it would fall. It says “Age 3+” in the programme but, by the same token, has received plaudits from serious broadsheet media. Turns out it’s a gem.

Jeramee, Hartleby and Oooglemore was created by the Unicorn Theatre, a venerable London institution which has focused on creating theatre that appeals to children since the mid-1940s. Directed by Tim Crouch and written by Gary Owen, it stars Jude Owusu, Lotte Tickner and Fionn Gill, respectively, as the titular characters. With much brio, they inhabit the roles of three children (we must assume) on a beach. The only dialogue throughout, including an amusing transistor radio broadcast Jeramee listens to as he relaxes in his deckchair, is their names, yet the trio build an ebullient character comedy that’s more engaging than seems feasible, given the simple ingredients.

It’s simply a delicious 50 minutes of innocent, uncomplicated slapstick giggles

Hartleby, the sole female character, arrives onstage first. Although she enjoys, via much mimed silliness, setting out her towel and relaxing for some of the time, she’s primarily the hyperactive one with a particular enthusiasm for ball games. Oooglemore we might regard as the youngest, an often bemused toddler type whose enthusiasm suddenly wanes amidst whatever activity he’s taking part in, so that he stands vacant or flops on the floor like a stressed Iggle-Piggle from CBeebies’ The Night Garden. Jeramee is the one with authority, perhaps the oldest, perhaps even a parent, although his hopelessness at putting up his own deck chair sends him into a minor tantrum.

It's a show of much clowning that also captures the ways of small children in a manner that’s genuinely heart-warming. The scene when a shivering Oooglemore pretends to be colder than he is so that Jeramee cajoles Hartleby into lending him her beloved towel, then revels spitefully in his success, will ring true with any parents of under-sevens. The youngsters in the audience clearly recognised the truth of the characters and were cackling away, en masse. One of their number, a boy of around seven/eight called Noah, became very much part of the action when his attempts to return a beach ball to Oooglemore descended into physical farce.

Music also adds to the fun, and there’s a loosely choreographed dancing sequence (which Oooglemore typically funks out off), as well as a timely use of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. For the most part, however, this piece relies entirely on the silent characterisations of its cast. We gradually grow to like Jeramee, Hartleby and Oooglemore. Their individual foibles can even be touching, such as when Oooglemore slowly learns to catch a ball, but on the whole it’s simply a delicious 50 minutes of innocent, uncomplicated slapstick giggles.

Overleaf: Watch the trailer for Jeramee, Hartleby and Oooglemore

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