Theatre Review: The Magic Bookshop

We were thrilled to see The Magic Bookshop pop-up at the Ennis Book Festival earlier this month, where I had dragged the kids along to spread the Baby Book Club news. Produced by Monkeyshine Theatre, the performance is a 30-minute adventure through fairytale- land, bringing well-known characters to life and thwarting expectations with unexpected endings.


Booksellers Peter (James Jobson) and John (Nicholas Kavanagh) are crammed into a tiny booth, taking care of ‘new arrivals’, the poor unloved and bescribbled books that are so far gone they will have to be shredded. Work is not as much fun as breaktime, however, when Peter and John get to indulge their preferred practice of recycling old books; turning them into 3-D pop-up paper-cut-outs that they use to animate a variety of well-known stories.

Monkeyshine have great fun confounding traditional plots but they also draw attention to the traditional structures of fairytales, and their telling gave rise to many conversations withe the 4 year-old about what other stories might have matched their settings. Although the stage and props were small, the gestures were big, and the balance between that energy and the delicacy of the physical worlds they created was particularly stimulating.

The age guide the company give for The Magic Bookshop is 5. Both my boys are younger, but they still loved every minute of the 30-minute-long performance. The 4-year-old loved the storytelling; the two-year-old loved the animation of the performers. I, meanwhile, have a longstanding obsession with paper-cut-outs, and I was amazed by some of the skill in Jobson’s prop-making, many pieces of which I would house on my own bookshelves (wolf mask please) .

At the end of the performance, you are invited to give a book to the proprietors and choose another from their well-stocked shelves in exchange.

Such a delight that we will be heading along when it plays at our local theatre in Dun Laoghaire.

Pavilion Theatre, Dún Laoghaire, Sunday March 20th; Draíocht, Blanchardstown, Saturday March 26th. Siamsa Tíre, Tralee Saturday April 9th. The Dock, Carrick on Shannon, Thursday April 14th; The Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar, Saturday April 16th. Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, Sunday April 17th.



CD Review: Singalong Songs From Glasses Island


Due to their parents’ intolerance of children’s techno, my boys have had to suffer my idiosyncratic renditions of popular children’s songs for far too long. We were delighted, then, to hear about The Speks, a 6-piece Irish trad band, who are giving traditional nursery rhymes the traditional Irish treatment. The sound is authentically Irish without being diddli-i and the musical instruments are refeshingly recognisable, giving rise to lots of chat here about fiddles, accordions, whistles etc.


The children’s favourites were Miss Molly (who we call Miss Polly) and Hey Diddle Diddle, which is spliced together with an Irish nursery rhyme they didn’t know called ‘Johnny Sat Down.’ Mine was Dilin O Deamhas, which I used to sing in three-part harmony in my school days. The CD is cannily pacakaged with inserts that tell the story of the band (a fictional comedy), and they have produced a nice little book to accompany the CD, which has sweet home-drawn illustrations. You can listen to most of the songs for free on their website, which also gives an insight into the history of the songs and their composition. Their live shows are hugely popular, and they can be seen in May 28th at Glor in Ennis, and on June 11th at the Town Hall Theatre in Galway.  We hope they make it East soon.