Normally writing a review is a careful balancing process weighing up good against bad and trying to give a balanced view, but this isn’t the case with The Cornerstone Arts Centre’s Emily Brown and the Thing. I could even, if I were feeling very lazy, sum it up into one brief, yet to the point, sentence: go and see this play.
We’re spoilt, in Oxfordshire, with great arts centres and small theatres showing some really great quality productions, especially around Christmas time. Didcot is within easy striking distance of where we live which is why we’re so lucky that they feature productions as excellent as this. Based on the book of the same name by Cressida Cowell, of ‘How to train your dragon’ fame, Emily Brown and the Thing is a charming, light hearted piece of theatre from Tall Stories that appeals to the very young right through to adults. We were nervous at taking the one year old Girl along to live theatre, but she sat, entranced, for the entirety, even joining in with some of the interactive parts and swaying along to the music.
The cast comprised of three actors taking on the parts of Emily Brown, Stanley (her rabbit) and miscellaneous bits parts and sound effects. Using only lighting, sound effects and very basic props the cast created a magical world of make believe around a little girl who doesn’t want to go to sleep and is bothered by a Thing who also doesn’t want to go to sleep. Through exciting adventures from ‘the dark and scary woods’ to ‘the wild and whirling wastes’ the play is full of fun and physicality that really stimulates the imagination and draws the audience into the on-stage action.
Right from the opening moments the audience – including me and The Man – were chuckling away and the light comedic touch carried on throughout. Small toys were used to represent the full-sized actors in some of their more action-packed sequences which allowed a really playful, exciting adventure to be told and created a very moving scene for the finale.
The Boy, who is nearly 5, is not known for sitting still or for enjoying dark spaces or ‘scary bits’, so we were arguably more concerned at taking him to see live theatre than his one year old sister. Thankfully the play was so engaging that as soon as the lights came up on stage he was engaged enough to sit still and watch it and, although there was one moment where he hid to avoid the Whining Witch’s spell, he seemed able to cope with the more scary moments much better than when they happen in a film.
Emily Brown and the Thing is running at The Cornerstone in Didcot until the 24th December and, although it is not specifically a Christmas play, it is nevertheless a magical piece of family-friendly theatre that everyone will enjoy.
To summarise my main points: it was great, we loved it and we’d highly recommend it to other families.
Prices: Full price £12.50, Conc £9.50, Members £10, Family £38
We were provided with a family ticket for the purposes of this review.