The Festival Family Fun Day was an enormous success! Children and families packed into Manchester Metropolitan University to meet their favourite authors and enjoy all of the many events and activities on offer. Despite the hectic schedule, however, we still found the time to head down to Z-Arts Centre for a special performance of Polly Dunbar’s Arthur’s Dream Boat, by Brighton-based children’s theatre company, Long Nose Puppets. And boy, were we happy we went.
From the moment the lights went down, the filled theatre was entirely mesmerised, children and adults alike. A voice addressed the crowd, “Ladies and Jellyfish…” and we were introduced to a snoring Arthur. The story follows Arthur (and his mischievous pet dog) as he wakes from a dream about a boat with pink and green stripes and a sail with red spots. He tries desperately to tell his family all about his dream, but he finds them all either too busy, or too lazy, to listen to him.
The original music which accompanies each scene of this extraordinary production would, if it were to be released in its own right, probably storm the charts. Composed by Tom Gray, guitarist/vocalist/keyboard player with the band Gomez, the songs are beautifully crafted to fit the show perfectly. A scene in which Arthur tries to tell his older brother about his dream, for example, only to be met with digital, teenage obliviousness, is an absolute triumph. The song which opens the scene will stay with you for a long, long while after, and you wont mind one bit.
As Arthur’s frustration at being ignored by his family grows, so too does his dream boat. What is more, strange things begin to happen in the house – not that his family notices. The dream boat gets bigger and bigger until the show reaches a surprising crescendo, which left the audience in the Z-Arts theatre delighted. This adaption of Arthur’s Dream Boat is full of belly laughs, amazing tunes and beautifully original puppetry and storytelling, if ever you have chance to see it, do not miss it, whatever age you are.
After the show, the children in the audience were invited to meet the puppets, which are made “out of anything and everything: latex, wood, found objects, socks, old umbrellas and the odd lampshade.”
The Long Nose Puppet Theatre was originally cofounded by Arthur’s Dream Boat and Tilly and Friends author, Polly Dunbar, along with university friend and fellow illustrator, Katherine Morton, in 2006. The theatre has adapted four shows from Polly’s books, including Arthur’s Dream Boat. They have had a hit show at the Edinburgh Festival and performed at the National Gallery and the Downing Street Christmas Party.
For more great Manchester Children’s Book Festival events visit our What’s On Guide. For more photos from the Family Fun Day you can head over to our Flickr page.