THERE’S no disputing the worthy motives, both theatrical and instructional, behind this youth theatre production from Guildford’s Yvonne Arnaud company.
Paradise in the Vault (Venue 29)
Star rating: * * *
It depicts a three-generational family in hiding, along with sundry friends and neighbours, from some unspecified oppressive regime.
Sophie is the motherless youngest of the family, her “shadow” her favourite doll, which is used by her father, grandparents and others among the captives in the puppet-enacted stories they tell her both to explain and distract from their plight, not least her grandfather’s evidently failing health. These sub-narratives include allegorised accounts of events leading up to the group’s confinement, together with versions of fairy tales preaching resilience and acceptance.
The concept is a strong one, and the ensemble playing well developed, with effective incorporation of live music and some strong visual effects.
The central (stringless) puppetry device, however, proves unduly laborious, often with two or three of the performers required to manipulate each figure, while the vagueness of the back-story beyond its most basic parameters – though obviously intended to broaden the show’s relevance – ends up depriving the foreground action of sufficient definition fully to imbue it with convincing life.
• Until 26 August. Tomorrow 3:35pm.