Review: What a Wonderful World. TakeOver Festival at York Theatre Royal.

Images by ‘Kirkpatrick Photography’ – charlie@kirkpatrick-photography.co.uk

By Ella McKeown and James Melville

Youthful imagination was used to create the glorious performance that was ‘What A Wonderful World’ by Lyngo Theatre. Children and parents alike were beaming from start to finish, and left wanting to give our planet earth a good old cuddle. ‘What a Wonderful World’ is a show that every stressed-out, sleep-deprived university student needs to see immediately; it will melt your heart and provide a wholesome dose of sunshine. In fact, scratch that, everyone needs to see this. 

Walking into the intimate theatre space with a circle of pillows on the floor to sit on, the characters of Ms Necessity and Mr Armstrong were immediately welcoming. For yours truly (Ella McKeown), this seating configuration caused an extreme case of pins and needles that results in me stumbling out of the auditorium with little dignity. For others (James Melville and the gaggle of children), this layout provided the optimum conditions for play. Behind the audience were soft black curtains, containing us in this friendly space, and if any audience member wondered whether you could lean against them as support, one unfortunate parent had to find out the hard way.  

What made this show so magical, and so above any other children’s theatre we had seen, was its creativity and enchanting story-telling. The task is set early on: together we must build a wonderful new world. We boarded a sleeper train to go on an adventure, with the story focusing on the different things that go into building this new world. Focusing on the power of our dreams, the performance concluded that our world must be preserved and cared for by all.

Another excellent part of the show was the creativity of the performers to depict all of these different aspects of nature. Stars shone in the form of a small chandelier hanging from above, snow fell in small feathers dropped from the ceiling, and a circular blue fabric covering the stage was the ocean, with the children shaking it to make the waves. Not only were these creative depictions clever, but they were beautiful. Who wouldn’t find reflections off a chandelier and lights bouncing off the wall stunning? Not just for an adult, but it was utterly enchanting for a child. The evidence was each and every child’s face. They loved every second of it, and the parents were wowed by the final result. 

Not only was it captivating, but everyone got a piece of the fun. Every moment was an opportunity to contribute to the building of this new world. Kids could play with bubble wrap to spark the fire, bowls lined with jewels could be spun to create a sea of stars, feathers of snow, puppets of birds, the list goes on. The performance even had parents in mind, with subtle but effective comedic moments. The final contribution where we all made a tree, and putting on a piece of fruit was a nice moment of everyone. The kids of course wanted to put the fruit on themselves, but it was too high, so the parents had to lift them up. This collective effort of coming together was a touching moment showing how we can all help to build a new world by working together.

Although the work of Lyngo must be praised for its imagination and skill, the real stars of the show were the children. A soundscape of giggles punctuated the performance. They were transfixed, their eyes glowing with awe and excitement. Why don’t we all look at the world like they do? Where does that innocence, that kindness, that inquisitive nature go? We can all learn from that room of under fives. Mr Armstrong says at the end to this room of children: ‘the world belongs to you, so please treat it a bit better than we did.’ I must say, I feel confident that the room of little people listened, and I believe that the rest of the audience took heed too.

This heart-warming message of how we should treat our wonderful world was inspiring and uplifting. After seeing a display like this one, you too would be wanting to give the Earth a great big cuddle. In fact it is something each member of the audience did. A giant globe of the Earth which felt like a comforting pillow was handed round to show some love, something all the kids were more than happy to do. With more performances like these, maybe a new generation of globe huggers will be raised.

 

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