I often forget just how great children's theatre can be, so it's always a nice surprise when I review a piece during festivals and it becomes a highlight show.
It has happened to me multiple times, and this time it is The Tale of the Cockatrice that won my heart for its charm and creativity.
Mumblecrust Theatre, the production company of Peafrog Puppetry, have created a superb and magical play which had both children and adults captivated throughout.
Two muddled storytellers with the demeanour and appearance of scavengers spin us the tale of a terrible evil lurking in the cellar of a priory that had long been forgotten... until it awoke and started terrifying the town. Farmer, knights, and everything in-between tremble in fear at the sheer horror of the awful beast with glowing eyes. It appears that the mute nun Mary-Anne is the only person able to stop it.
The story is told through a mixture of live acting, singing and puppetry work, and it was beautifully crafted. The creativity of the puppets was brilliant, and how the duo recreated the horse was hilarious. The whole performance just oozed charm, and the way the narrators sparked off each other demonstrated a great love for the piece. The puppets were exceptionally well crafted, with Mary-Anne being simply adorable. Like all good children's theatre there were jokes for adults, and a surprisingly bit of social commentary - especially around how we are judged on appearance. Hopefully it wasn't too subtle, because such messages are incredibly important for children to hear.
There were a few very minor slip ups and jumbled lines that momentarily detracted from the magic, although it was very quickly forgotten as the befuddled duo continued. It was also slightly disappointing when some of the lunes were drowned out by the accordion. I've gone back and forth on this quite a lot, but given that they were such minor issues I couldn't in good conscience withhold that final star. Katie Underhay and Anthony Burbridge did so much right anything less than five stars would be criminal.
Given that they are a new company they should be so exceptionally proud of what they produced, and with the slightest bit of polish it will be an absolutely perfect show. Rest safe in the knowedge that when you go to see them (because you really must go to see it) you will have a brilliant time, irrespective of age.