Review: The Little Child by Short One Player Theater

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Puppet theatre often gets saddled with the assumption that it’s meant for children. But at The Little Child, Taiwanese theatre company Short One Player Theater proves that puppetry can tackle some of the most difficult topics and make them accessible to both kids and adults.

The Little Child was inspired by director Wei-Chun Chan’s experiences visiting his comatose father in hospital as a child. Using the memory of those hospital visits, Chan played on the idea of the vast imagination children possess and along with his phenomenal cast, effectively achieves in The Little Child, as we follow two storylines set in a hospital that maximises the extent of the human imagination, bringing inanimate objects to life and taking its characters to extraordinary worlds in an entirely wordless play.

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In the first storyline, as with Wei-Chun’s childhood, a bespectacled boy visits his comatose father as he lies in a hospital bed. As the boy falls asleep from fatigue, we’re privy to his dreams as he floats up to the skies, where clouds become strange Venus Flytrap-like creatures that snatch smaller passing clouds out of the sky. In the second storyline, a second young boy is about to undergo an operation, but quickly befriends a sassy lamp, and gets up to all sorts of mischief with it.

The puppeteers, consisting of Chiang Pao-Lin, Chiu Mi-Chen, Ho Hsiang-I, Lee Yu-Lan and Yang Wen-Han are experts at the craft, tenderly bringing their puppets to life with precise and careful movements, down to the tiniest details such as tiny joint movements and the physics of flight. Even the non-human characters, such as the extremely enjoyable lamp, are imbued with a keen sense of realism, moving as naturally as an animated lamp might. Liu Po-Hsin’s lighting design and Yu Huai’s evocative soundtrack also contribute greatly to the believability of this world, creating a dreamlike environment that plays well with the oneiric, fantastic subject of the plot.

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Even beyond the sheer creativeness of the production, The Little Child also manages to strike at an emotional level with its portrayal of the relationships in both storylines. The first boy shares a tender, heartfelt hug with his dream father (a head attached to a soft, round cotton ball), and it’s the only time he gets to feel his father hugging back. The second boy leaves the lamp following the operation, and something irrevocable has changed over its course, a friendship we watched grow now gone, possibly forever. Although simple in plot, The Little Child uses that same simplicity to devastating effect, easily evoking strong emotions even with the lack of dialogue. There is a primal joy in watching the inanimate brought to life, and Short One Player has adroitly done all that and more with this charming production that sensitively applies childlike wonder to make an unbearable situation positively magical.

The Little Child
When: Till 20th August, 11am & 2pm
Where: Centre 42 Black Box
Tickets available from SISTIC

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