The Nutcracker aside, it is unexpected for some to see a modern Christmas show so rooted in dance and movement. Ahead of the show, other families mentioned that they weren’t expecting ‘as much dancey stuff’, but that’s exactly why I went.
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A co-production from Barton Hill’s Travelling Light Theatre Company and Bristol Old Vic, Boing! is funny, friendly and approachable. It is hard to get simple beauty this perfect. No wonder Boing! has toured for as long as it has. Even though Wilkie Branson and Kel Matsena are performing 50 shows this season, they make it feel like they are performing just for you, which is pretty special.
Wilkie and Kel (using their own names) are spectacular as brothers in crime. Their sensorimotor embodiment of children is exceptional – a skill that is highly judged by children when performing to children, as Kel referred to in his preview interview with Bristol 24/7.
The show begins with bedtime on Christmas Eve, and a checklist of teeth, stockings, teddies… the parents in the audience know that it’s not that easy. A night of imaginative delinquency ensues.
The choreography by Joêl Daniel and Wilkie Branson is simplistic, but extremely effective. The kids in the audience are giggling and the adults grinning as Kel wakes up waaay too early and starts getting up to mischief. A false start on the stockings leads to a capoeira pillow flight (complete with slo-mo segment), breakdancing LED robots, leaping superheroes and dreamy boat rides. These two agile and magnificently synced ‘boys’ are certainly not asleep. God knows what time in the morning it must be!
The intimate Weston Studio space is perfect for Boing!, as well as a mid-show game of teddy catch – parachuted off the duvet into the first rows, a great way to get interactive with the audience.
It’s Christmas, so we’re watching siblinghood through slightly rose tinted glasses, but that’s my only criticism. The brothers are otherwise so well portrayed. Without being told, you can guess the older-younger relationship and totally relate to the way they feed off of each other. It’s certainly a different kind of choreography to adult/professional dance – more pure movement than any kind of dance category. When there are only two people, one bed and two teddies on stage for 50 minutes, the sync needs to be perfect, and it was.
The brother’s fourth attempt at falling asleep was, finally, successful. They had so well captured the hearts of all the kids in the audience by that point that many of them cried out ‘night night!’
My takeaway thought? Never put my two sons in a bedroom together…
My favourite bit? Wilkie’s Captain Pillow come to save Kel’s Sheet Man from Evil Teddy. A pillow stuffed into the bum of pyjamas looks particularly comical in a handstand.
I asked my entourage about their favourite bits too.
Daniel, 5: ‘The feathers falling like snow at the end’.
Eli, 5: ‘The bit where they both said ‘stockings!’
Wilf, 5: ‘The disco bit and the kung fu moves.’
Jacques, 4: ‘All of it!’
The talent behind the scenes is exceptional, specifically the lovely score by Alex Vann, the direction by Sally Cookson and the design by Katie Sykes. The use of minimal props and musical cues is very clever and adds to the overall magic.
It was a joy to watch. Remember kids, Wilkie says “if you want Santa to come, you have to go to sleep”.
Boing! is in the Weston Studio at the Bristol Old Vic until January 5 2020. For tickets and more information, visit www.bristololdvic.org.uk/whats-on/boing
Photo credit: Camilla Adams
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