By Danielle Farrow
Little Angel Theatre, in association wit the Royal Shakespeare company, presents Michael Rosen’s story, The Magician’s Daughter, with puppetry and music. Two performers play mother Miranda (daughter of Shakespeare’s magician Prospero) and daughter Isabella, while also singing, playing musical instruments and animating puppets, including Ariel, Caliban and Prospero’s magic staff, broken in two (and apparently not buried as deeply in the ocean as that magician would have you believe at the end of his play). The two halves of the staff has been kept separately by Ariel and Caliban and it is Isabella who restores it in order to work a spell at home to clear up terrible weather.
For ages 3:, this show uses clear wording, repetition and light humour, with silly pronunciations, a little temper tantrum and plenty of pleading when Isabella is supposed to be going to bed to sleep. Its set is shiftable without too much distraction, creating both Isabella’s bedroom and the “isle of noises“, complete with a tree of “fruity fruits“.
It took a while for the young audience members to respond to direct address, but they were kept quietly watching and then warmed up along the way to thoroughly enjoy correcting Caliban’s ways of saying Isabella’s name, as well as waving happily to the staff when it flew amongst them.
The message that comes through about helping each other and sharing what you have is clear without being overly pushed, and there are some delightful characterisations, in both physical puppetry and vocalisation. The show is a fun introduction to the native islanders of Shakespeare’s Tempest and touches of some of that play’s themes, though it does focus far more on Caliban than Ariel and the latter is less recognisable in character. There are also a few of Prospero’s lines as voice-overs, chosen to be clear and including the famous reference to us and our lives being as dreams, “rounded with a sleep“.
While The Magician’s Daughter is primarily child-focused, there are a few jokes for adults and the clear story-telling, with some fine puppetry skills on show, can entertain the whole family rather nicely.