The Studio at Derby theatre is best described as bijou. You have to walk across the stage to access your seats. Therein lies its charm, the opportunity for audience and actors to be as one. It is like watching a performance in your living room. The Gingerbread Man, performed by Hiccup Theatre Company is a dark tale with a strong narrative which does not have a happy ending (unless you are a fox). The story appeals to pre-school children particularly, who dominated the audience. We took a three year old and a six year old.
Young children’s stories are not easy to perform successfully. They require strong visuals, bright colours, mild jeopardy, a bit of song and dance and a narrative which is easy to follow and repetitive. This production scores heavily on all counts. Sarah Brigham is a very fine Director whose vision and attention to detail does not slip on account of it being a short forty five minute production for children. The three actors, Paula James, John Holt-Roberts, and Ivan Stott are likeable and energetic bakers, as well as being able to play instruments sing, and harmonise. The stars of the show are of course the Gingerbread Man himself, who grows and comes to life, and the hungry and wily fox, both of whom are a credit to puppeteer John Barber.
There is plenty of adventure and action to be had as the Gingerbread Man escapes from the kitchen, appearing in various places around the stage to the delight of the children Then he is off through the town, across the fields, encountering a cow, and having time to race a horse, before finding his way to the river. If there is a moral to this story it is that if you are a Gingerbread Man, and a fox offers you a ride across a river on its back, it is best to seek alternative forms of transport.
The set is warm and cosy with plenty of secrets, the oven glows, and a river and field appear out of nowhere, all thanks to set designer Samuel Wilde. The three quarter of an hour running time is just right for young children, with plenty of gentle humour, and whenever the narrative might be testing their attention span, a song appears courtesy of composer Ivan Stott. As an adult I was impressed by the skill and craft that went into the production, the children loved it with minimal fidgeting and restlessness. Our three year old was agog, our six year old slightly less so.
A very strong show overall, this will appeal to young families, boys and girls, and runs until December 31st.