Review: The Nightingale by SRT’s The Little Company
The power of friendship is told through song and puppetry in this fun restaging of a Hands Christian Andersen classic.
How do we encourage a community that knows how to appreciate the arts? By starting them young of course. And SRT’s The Little Company knows how best to contribute to that, with a restaging of The Nightingale this March holiday.
Playing to a theatre full of pre-schoolers early on a weekday, The Nightingale is a wonderful way to break in kids to the theatre scene. Adapted from Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale of the same name, The Nightingale follows the story of the Emperor of China befriending a common Nightingale. But in navigating their friendship, the Emperor takes her for granted, and the two grow apart. Can they repair their friendship in time before it’s too late?
The Nightingale’s lessons are presented in an extremely fun and accessible way for audiences of all ages. Ruth Ling’s songs are well-composed and offer a range of genres for the cast to sing through and add layers to their characters. In puppeteering and playing the eponymous Nightingale, Kimberly Chan uses her voice effectively to replicate the natural, atmospheric voice of an actual nightingale, crisp and sonorous as it fills the theatre. Meanwhile, Leslie Tay’s portrayal Emperor was probably a relatable one to many of the kids in the audience, as a whiny, spoilt brat with a short attention span. However, we do wish that Leslie’s voice was better utilised and showcased more throughout the show. Each cast member plays their role well, their chemistry slowly improving as the play progresses, much like the actual growth of new friendships.
Staging-wise, The Nightingale even draws inspiration from traditional theatre forms such as shadowplays, as the cast perform as black silhouettes behind a screen in one segment of the performance, a great way to change up the medium and keep it visually stimulating. And The Nightingale even manages to touch on some deep material – when the Emperor cannot understand the Nightingale’s unhappiness at being caged in, his kitchenmaid (Natalie Yeap) points out the startling parallels between his and her situations, only that the palace is a larger cage. Audiences might then be asking themselves about the invisible cages they themselves are trapped in in their everyday lives.
Perhaps the most important takeaway from The Nightingale was the sheer audience enjoyment evident from their laughter as they responded heartily to an interactive cheer led by the cast. In viewing the play, lessons such as the importance of respect within friendships and that anyone can be friends, regardless of background, are easily teased out and comprehended by the young audience members. Ultimately, just as the Nightingale’s song was sincere enough to bring the Emperor to tears of joy, we too were moved by this well produced piece of children’s theatre.
Performance attended 8/3/18
The Nightingale plays at the KC Arts Centre from 7th March – 20th April. Tickets available from SISTIC