This was the perfective magical, calming ritual for two hopelessly-overexcited-about-Christmas kids. The Hare and the Tortoise is aimed at an audience of 4-8 year olds and is at Nottingham playhouse until January 2nd. You can see why Mumsnet gave it 5 stars.
Hare and Tortoise, Nottingham Playhouse
I felt my shoulders drop as we left the mayhem of Christmas shopping behind and sat down on cushions in the cosily lit studio space. It was wonderful to be transported to another world and to reflect on our perceptions of time, as adults, and as children.
‘I don’t need to see it’ said my daughter, like an impatient-to-race hare, ‘I know the story already’. But, as I speculated beforehand, like a wise old tortoise – the well known fable is only a tiny part, the build up to the race and the tensions between the impatient hare (child) and the slow and steady tortoise (adult) as the tortoise makes the hare wait, form the bulk of the narrative.
Hare is always in a rush. Everything is SOOOOO exciting! Tortoise, on the other hand, takes her time, notices the smallest of things and loves every minute, living life to the full.
G aged 7 thought it was ‘Very good, I liked the hare, Mum said he was just like me.’
The hare was indeed exactly like my impatient, impulsive, 7 year old, even down to packing flippers, snorkel, drum kit and an inflatable shark for a summer holiday. For me the play was about parenthood and/or childhood. The play explored the concept of time for children, big and small moments, from waiting the excruciating 60 seconds for the tortoise to have a cup of tea, to waiting for the seasons to pass.
It was funny to watch the adult actor playing the Hare physically express the creature’s child like frustrations with having to wait to start the race, or the energy required not to lick an ice cream as he waits for the tortoise to take a photo. The tortoise knows to savour each moment, the hare knows how to bring energy, joy and explosions of fun.
At the end, just as the hare on stage realises he is growing up, my little hare crept over and curled up in my lap, reminding me that while my kids may be on the cusp of new, more grown up realms of children’s theatre, they are still able to appreciate the themes, warmth and playfulness of a show like this.
It was a sensory delight. There are moments of gentle audience participation: high fives, blowing a breeze, clapping, stamping and children invited to help carry the character’s holiday packing, and to shake the cloth used to represent the sea. There was snow and fairy lights which left us feeling festive at the end.
Both actors play live music, a playful way to explore their different rhythms.
There was lots to talk about afterwards, questions raised about the meaning of the characters and their relationship, exactly what children’s theatre should gently be teasing out in it’s audience. My children saw the play differently to me, L thought it was more about friendship and that led to some interesting discussions.
At 9 years old my daughter L felt she was a little old for it, but smiled throughout and said:
‘I think it is great for 6 year olds and younger, it has got a great imagination to it and they made it feel like it was actually happening with all the props to show the seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. It makes you think about what friendship really means, and the tortoise and the rabbit, even though they were fast and slow, they still got along.
A lovely little piece of theatre, which makes me a little sad that my hares are growing up so fast…but reminded me that living more slowly and savouring moments like these is absolutely the way to conquer that feeling.
Need to Know
The Hare and the Tortoise is aimed at an audience of 4-8 year olds and is at Nottingham Playhouse until January 2nd.
More information via Nottingham Playhouse
Photography by Robert Day for Nottingham Playhouse.