#15 Michael Morpurgo's Kensuke's Kingdom

Children's Shows ( Theatre ) Pleasance Two, Pleasance Courtyard

Theatre, and light puppetry, for the whole family. A story of a boy lost at sea, and life on a mostly deserted island waiting for rescue.

The story begins with a family, and a wild plan to sail the seven seas. Fate has it that Michael, an energetic 12-year-old, and the family dog Stella soon find themselves on a remote tropical island somewhere in the South Pacific. Mysterious old man Kensuke looks after them in small gestures, and there's other fauna for company as well.

The telling of the tale is accomplished. Aaron Douglas does a great job as the lively Michael, always moving or talking. Rest of the company is equally solid, each one doing a fine job with their respective puppets, as well as in their speaking roles. I have seen livelier puppets, though. Some nuance and life is perhaps missing from the supporting cast. The parents don't get too much stage time, but are nicely fleshed out.

Sound and score are a little overwhelming, but visuals and particularly lighting hit their marks. The pivotal storm scene is impressive and easily the highlight of the whole show.

The story plays out safely indeed. A ball, inspiredly introduced, is lost in tribute to Wilson, but even that resolves happily. I'm not familiar with the Morpurgo original, but this abridged version felt very convenient. Magic replaced with a plausible yet unlikely series of events. Writing down for a happy ending.

There are darker themes in the story, but it's all sunshine and gummy bears in the end. A slide show on Kensuke's past tries to add some morals into the story, and it works ok. A bit too much exposition throughout the show.

Several red herrings, or just plot devices. Mother's stomach bug (pregnancy?), fate of invaders (or Kensuke for that matter), and Stella's barking on the fateful night (Kensuke fishing?) are all left unresolved.

Still, the children seemed to enjoy, and the older guard was visibly moved. Stella the dog was the star of the show for many of the little ones.

Bring the whole extended family to see a feel good story of a boy lost at sea.