Children’s shows review: The Many Doors of Frank Feelbad

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Frank has lost his mum and can’t find her anywhere.

Star rating: ****

Venue: Pleasance Kids @ EICC (Venue 150)

She left behind a receipt, a 50 pence coin and a pass for the sealife centre where she works; tiny aspects of her life which he uses as vital clues to track her down. Because, try as he might, Frank can’t decipher what the adults in his life are actually saying – they all talk in riddles.

Adults quickly latch on to the fact that Frank’s mum has died, and that when a well-meaning uncle says “she’s gone to a better place”, he doesn’t mean a location in town. But for little ones, it’s a much slower process – and, remarkably, given the subject matter, a fun one.

Upon arrival, children are asked to don a brown overall and become a “locator”, the first task of which is to find pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Once inside, those pieces come together to form the town Frank lives in, on to which the cast put tiny houses and shops. It’s a sight to behold – in fact, the whole set is – while Frank himself is the most charming of puppets.

The cast of three play a number of characters, as Frank journeys around the town trying to locate his mum, most of which are witty and engaging, although the decision to ask us all to pluck a giant chicken (who tells us it’s “painful”) feels a little ill-judged.

When it becomes obvious that Frank’s mum is dead, you wonder where Chichester’s Bootworks Theatre Collective can possibly take us without breaking our hearts. But they handle the subject with such sensitivity and calmness, citing the ways Frank can keep her memory alive yet move on, that our eyes are moist but hearts intact.

Until 28 August. Today noon.

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