Theatre review: The Paper Dolls at Little Angel Theatre

Paper Dolls at Little Angel Theatre

Paper Dolls at Little Angel Theatre - Credit: Archant

This adaptation Julia Donaldson’s story is a magical realisation of a child’s imagination, says Caroline David.

‘Nothing loved is ever lost’ is the moral at the heart of The Paper Dolls – a magical adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s [writer of The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom, amongst many others] much-loved book for 3-7 year-olds.

The power of protaganist Rosie’s imagination drives the narrative. Directed by Polka Theatre’s Peter Glanville, this sensitive adaptation builds on the story’s simplicity by layering in plenty of movement. Young Rosie imagines how her paper dolls come to life in action-packed sequences as they fend off various carnivorous creatures: an oven-glove crocodile, a toy dinosaur and her tiger slippers – all come to life. Each time, the paper dolls resolutely keep holding hands and confound their persecutors. But their fragility is made plain when Rosie’s robust, pink-cheeked brother Tommy catches up with them, armed with a pair of scissors. Puppeteers Andrea Sadler and Jane Crawshaw move their charges with great skill: the imperious tiger stalks the stage and Rosie’s bouncing brother – wittily created with his legs locked into a sack as if competing at an eternal sports day – is particularly striking.

The charm of The Paper Dolls is its quiet tone and spiritual dimension. Lyndie Wright’s set and cloth-spun puppets perfectly capture the spirit of Rebecca Cobb’s cut out illustrations from the book. Delicate models of lit-up houses hang amongst the audience to further illustrate that the power of a child’s imagination can be limitless. While the themes are a touch buried to begin with, Julian Butler’s wistful score smoothes over a slow start.

Thousands of people from all over the world were so inspired by Donaldson’s story that, in 2013, they sent paper dolls to the Royal Festival Hall to create a chain that measured 4.5km in length. It’s not surprising.

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Rating: 4/5 stars

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