Up, Up, Up and Away, in front rooms everywhere, on Saturday, June 13
Review by Jon Lewis
WITH the support of Oxford’s Creation Theatre company for marketing and logistical support, Super Stories and City Actors’ play Up, Up, Up and Away, adapted by George Rennie from Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Flea and the Professor, is a fun-filled interactive 45 minutes for young children.
A boyish apprentice balloonist (Ryan Duncan) goes on a balloon ride with the buffoonish Captain Calamity (Rowland Stirling), promising the viewers an interactive journey and inducting them as cloud cadets, and their parents to Zoom, with the children invited to bring along a soft toy as a travel buddy.
The company employs Zoom confidently, zooming in only on those front rooms where the children dance, wiggle and raise their hand to offer advice. We are asked to find a destination for the balloon and one child suggests the Amazonian rain forest where the apprentice can find a black panther. The gallery view function encourages as many children as possible to join in the action in a shared experience, the enthusiasm spreading from one screen to another.
The show integrates pre-filmed songs with a delightful animation of the balloon being chased across the Andes by an angry thunder cloud. Virtual green screen backgrounds include a steampunk-style visual of the balloon’s interior. In one scene, the balloonists abandon the balloon on parachutes, the children doing the same by holding up blankets over their heads. No one is reticent in giving the apprentice advice on how to cross mountains and lakes. He finds himself in a flea circus where a strongly accented French flea (a cute puppet) introduces him to a magician, Zucchini. The children then take off their socks to perform as jumping fleas. Chaos is averted, unlikely brothers are reunited and our hero finds his beloved balloon, all with the help of the children.