STARCHITECTS: A Mission to the Moon!
Birmingham Hippodrome, Friday 3rd February 2023
Motionhouse’s new production is aimed squarely at a family audience, in particular the youngest members of the family. Five children, portrayed by grown-up performers, are having a sleepover, although sleep is the farthest thing from their fertile little minds. With tireless energy, these effervescent children bounce around, using cardboard boxes in their play-acting, creating a ceaselessly imaginative sequence in which the boxes are hiding places, an aeroplane, a castle, a train… It’s a dazzling way to start the show before the story proper begins.
The boxes form a huge telescope through which they espy the moon and two girls (Moon fairies, no less). The kids decide to go to the moon to visit the fairies. The boxes become a ziggurat on which is projected their rocket – the backdrop is a vast screen onto which stunning visuals are displayed. The screen is made of strips so the performers can disappear into holes, through windows and so on, and magically reappear. Visually, the show cannot be faulted. The digital imagery, by Logela Multimedia, adds colour and excitement as well as denoting setting.
So the kids get to the moon, encounter an alien life form with slinkies for limbs and eyes where its hands should be, but they’re never really in danger. They meet the fairies and then get back in their rocket and come home. All of this is underscored by original music by Tim Dickinson and Sophy Smith, which definitely adds atmosphere and drama but at times it’s a bit too loud. The performers often vocalise to each other and sometimes invite the audience to call out, but we can’t often hear what they’re saying and only glean an impression of their dialogue – which is fine, this is a visual show after all where movement is the main focus, but a bit of contrast in volume levels would have helped.
The performers are uniformly excellent, agile and acrobatic. Their timing when interacting with the animation is impeccable. The characters are also uniform in their exuberance and behaviour so it’s hard to pick out anyone in particular. The direction by Kevin Finnan and the choreography, also by Finnan and the cast, keep the simple story clear and easy to follow. I would have liked a bit more jeopardy other than a couple of ‘It’s behind you’ moments to help me engage with the characters and their adventure.
Visually stunning and technically perfect, the show has plenty of wow moments but it doesn’t engage on an emotional level, which is the only missing ingredient for me.
☆ ☆ ☆ and a half!