I saw Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia’s adaptation of Sam McBranty’s popular picture-book at Baboro last weekend. The company have done themselves (and the audience) a disservice in the way in which they have marketed the show. It opens with a staging of Anita Jerman’s much-less known I Love My Little Storybook, which lasts about 40 minutes; Guess How Much I Love You, meanwhile, unfolds over a short 15-minute stretch at the end. This might seem like a pedantic comment, but it really influences audience expectations, and by the time the “main event” begins younger audience members may have already had enough.
That said, I Love My Little Storybook is delightfully retold with the most beautiful puppets. A blend of stick-puppet and silhouette work is used to animate the simple tale of a well-read rabbit and the adventures that his books take him on. The puppeteers are visible on stage the whole time, but I this adds rather than detracts from the magic. The narration is slow but clear, guiding the audience through the various scenes. Highlights included the appearance of a Giant and an underwater scene. We had never read Jerman’s stand-alone story, but fared well with the material. All the same, I would recommend preparing by checking it out from the library in advance.
The same approach is taken by the company in staging Guess How Much I Love You, although the simpler story, which is based around repetition and very similar illustrations, allows for less creativity. The gentle movements as Little Nut Brown Hare and Big Nut Brown Hare compete for love of each other was particularly striking.
Guess How Much I Love You/ My Little Storybook is pitched at a 3+ audience, which is fitting in terms of the accessibility of the content. The overall effect, however, veers towards the soporific, so the performance might be best viewed in the late afternoon, or you might find your young ones getting restless towards the end.
There is a show in Hawks Well Theatre, Sligo on 23rd October. There are two shows in Dun Laoghaire on 26th and 27th of October