The River People, previous Total Theatre Award winners for Lilly through the dark, are back with their own unique brand of folk storytelling, combining puppetry and music as we follow the tale of a young man who has hit hard times and lost his way in the world.
The real standout of this production is the gypsy wagon the show is housed in, a wonderfully quaint portable venue that engrosses the spectator – a perfect place for stories to be told. Walking up to it stationed in the middle of a car park isn’t the greatest stetting for this venue, as I imagine its placement in rural festivals like Latitude must increase the magical quality of this production tenfold. But nevertheless once you are inside you soon forget about the outside world.
The company’s performances set the tone perfectly with subtle but controlled handling of the stage’s various props and contraptions. The new venue gives each of them the space to break out of character and really embrace the audience, which is a great step away from their previous staged performances – there is a quality of openness that fits this company’s artistic/performance register perfectly.
The only thing that lets this production down is the story being told, which at times is quite flat in places, and goes off on tangents that don’t really help move the narrative along. The music and puppeteering is very inventive and the company have taken a few risks with their material, which takes quite a few dark turns.
If you are a fan of old fashioned storytelling then The River People and their gypsy wagon will be right down your street. Let’s hope this company keeps bringing stories to life with their lovely bespoke puppets and wonderful music, because if not for the weak plot this show would be an all-round winner.