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Children's shows - reviews

Dogs Don’t Do Ballet

The Radlett Centre, Radlett
19 March 2013, 4.00pm

What a lovely way to spend a Tuesday afternoon – where else could you see a dog in a tutu dance to Swan Lake? Honestly, what would you rather be doing?!

Throughout the Little Angel Theatre’s beautifully conceived show Dogs Don’t Do Ballet, the one word that kept twirling round my head to describe it was charming – there are others, including witty, engaging, clever and at times surreal.

Based on the book by Anna Kemp, the story centres on Biff, a little dog who prefers to do ballet rather than sniff round lamp posts or chase sticks. Anna, the young girl he lives with is similarly ballet-mad and wants to take him to her classes or to the Royal Opera House but everyone keeps telling her that “Dogs Don’t Do Ballet”.

Biff has other ideas though, and naturally ends up in the spotlight!

Clever puppets

Directed by David Duffy, this is a show that combines favourite ballet music such as Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev with story telling and puppetry.

Amazingly, it’s just two performers, Ronnie Le Drew and Andrea Sadler, who skillfully combine working a fascinating range of Keith Frederick’s cleverly designed puppets with playing non-puppet roles.

Le Drew is great fun as a flamboyant elderly ballet teacher, while also cleverly bringing Biff to life with his wealth of experience including beiong Zippy in Rainbow!

Meanwhile, Sadler showcases fantastic versatility playing characters ranging from Anna’s northern father and the ballet teacher’s side kick Marjorie to an ice cream seller at the theatre.

The fascinating puppets appear on a simple set which very effectively moves from ballet class to kennel to Royal Opera House seamlessly.

Meanwhile, the audience not only engages with the puppets, but is able to join in with the plenty of opportunities to get involved in panto style participation.

Sublime

The show’s wit comes from the fact that the premise is actually ridiculous but there is also something touching and sublime

about a little dog with big dreams. And of course, underneath it all there is a message that just because somebody says you can’t do something, doesn’t mean that you can’t do it – a concept that has hopefully been lodged somewhere in V’s subconscious.

So, while it turns out in this story that dogs CAN do ballet, be warned that this can be dangerous information with which to arm a 3-year-old with a dog at home.

The proof is in the disgusted look on our very good natured collie’s face as V tried to get her front paws into first position!

V’s verdict

“I will have to think about that and I will tell you later,” she said. Turned out she enjoyed it all – enough to re-enact the whole thing with her Nana the next day using my mum’s precious ornaments as puppets!

Length

About 40 minutes – perfect!

Age range

It’s billed as age 2 plus, but honestly I think Mr A and I were just as enthralled.

Other stuff

We were given a free sheet of production information which suited me just fine. There’s no merchandising, which again was a plus.

The show is on tour until 21 April – details of dates and venues are on the Little Angel Theatre website.

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