Embarking on their second full production, MONSTRO Theatre have devised a puppet musical that celebrates books – it began with a run at renowned puppet base Little Angel Theatre Studios, and is now on tour across the country. Book Story is a lovely hour of puppetry and songs that will warm the hearts of the whole family.
A mummy book is trying to get her child to sleep, and is forced to come up with a brand new story for bedtime – here lies the heart of our story. Ever since he was a child, Brian has been besotted with books. So much so that he begins Brian’s Library, allowing him to share his love for books with as many people as possible, and employing Judy and Mavis to work as librarians with him. When his dad dies, Brian decides he should finally write a book as a tribute, as he’s always having ideas but never has the time to do anything more about it! But when his favourite story book goes missing he seems to lose the will to do anything – what will help Brian get his life back on track?
What I haven’t told you so far is that Brian’s Library is quite a magical place. Think Toy Story, but with books! As soon as the people are out of the room, the library books spring to life and get up to all sorts of mischief. They also welcome new books to the library, which is a fun way of introducing the audience to the place (and possibly children to the concept of a library). Unfortunately it ends up being one of the books’ fault that Brian’s favourite gets taken away, so they decide to go on an unprecedented adventure to retrieve it.
Book Story does what all good family shows do, in that it makes sure there’s something for everyone at one point or another; there are some silly jokes more aimed at the older end of the audience, and simple songs and physical theatre that suit young ones. To the joy of some children in the audience, they got to contribute a small bit to the story when the book came to ask them how to get to a little girl’s house to find Brian’s book.
The design (Michael Fowkes) is charming. Brian’s Library is brightly coloured and very welcoming; exactly what a library should be. For the adults in the audience (certainly me) it brings an element of nostalgia, as you remember frequenting your own local library – I vividly recall taking part in summer holiday reading challenges and devouring all the books I could lay my hands on from an early age. I hope anyone seeing this production is then inspired to take their children to their nearest library too (while some of them are left!).
The puppetry element to this show is exquisite. Brian’s childhood, reading stories with his beloved dad, is told using beautifully carved rod puppets, before we meet adult Brian (played in person by Phil Yarrow) and his fellow librarians (Andrea Sadler and Karina Garnett). Most of the puppet work, as you’ll have guessed, comes when the books are up and about – they are surprisingly nimble, and brought to life vividly (and often with voices appropriate to their subject matter) by the skilled puppeteers.
My verdict? A fun family puppet show, but also a good reminder of the power and value of libraries – I highly recommend you check this one out.
Book Story ran at Little Angel Theatre Studios until 1 October 2017. Full details of the tour can be found on the official website.