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.