Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

“The performances are a joy...the puppetry well-directed and clever”

Wales at Edinburgh Fringe

Familia de la Noche- Gulliver's Travels , Pleasance Courtyard , August-18-16
Wales at Edinburgh Fringe by Familia de la Noche- Gulliver's Travels I hope Familia de la Noche will not take it amiss if I call them Wales' best least-known company. Edinburgh regulars- I was at their version of Pinocchio at the same venue a couple of years back- and based in bosky eastern Carmarthenshire they are to be sighted on flying visits in Pontardawe and Llanelli.

From “Three Weeks” August 14th

“Familia De La Noche have returned to the Fringe with a surprisingly family friendly production, full of humour and delightful details. Puppets become tiny Lilliputians, actors become giants, whole worlds are created in seconds. The story takes place shortly after eccentric traveller Lemuel Gulliver’s death. His daughter is ready to throw out his belongings but, in a series of flashbacks, Gulliver’s assistant shows her the value of each one. It’s a play about adventures, about memories and how we keep those alive: sometimes logic and proof need to be replaced with awe and wonder. ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ is enchanting, colourful and silly – perfect for children who like jokes about bogies, and adults who still believe in magic and mystery.”

From “Broadway Baby” August 12th

"Familia de la Noche's production of Gulliver’s Travels is an adaptation of Jonathan Swift’s satirical novel following several adventures of Lemuel Gulliver as he travels to the land of the tiny people on Lilliput, the giant people in Brobdingnag, the Castle in the Sky of Laputa and finally to the country of the Houyhnhnms. Starring a cast of three actors and several puppets, Gulliver is placed in a new setting two hundred years ahead of his time, from the year 1900 onwards, in an enjoyable and poignant take on the classic.

The play begins with Elizabeth Gulliver entering her father’s old home to see about auctioning away his old possessions as he had recently passed away. Over the last ten years he had grown more detached from the world and consequently she in turn grew to be distant from him. Gulliver’s friend Mr Green goes through his inventory and begins recounting the adventures Gulliver had told him during their acquaintance to help reignite some interest from Gulliver’s disenfranchised daughter.

The set here is neatly designed and though lacking some projection the performances are good. From this point we are introduced to Gulliver who has been tied down by the tiny Lilliputians. Using a mix of costumed actors and puppetry, the visual results are wonderfully silly and fun. Creative set-piece after set-piece makes the first half of this production very enjoyable. The actors were in their element with the puppetry and funny scenarios in the story. It was great realising that Swift’s satirical elements were playing into the comedy such as the absurdities of etiquette and the strange tiny differences between people dividing them.

Much like the book, the play takes a darker turn and though there are still some funny moments in the second half, the tone becomes much more melancholic. The play loses its fluidity a little here though the story being told (diverging from the novel in terms of setting) is actually very interesting and imaginative. It begins to explore the emotions of the characters which, while not as fun as the puppet scenes, are appreciated for following the themes of the novel. The acting here is good, though a little quiet, lacking the enthusiasm of the earlier, funner scenes. While the scenes felt a little disjointed, the play never ceased to be interesting, especially with some interesting plot twists towards the end which explain Gulliver’s later disconnected behaviour.

Gulliver’s Travels is a fun, silly and bittersweet retelling of Swift’s classic. The performances are a joy, especially in the whackier moments, and the puppetry is well-directed and clever. A sweet and stimulating show for families looking for a mix of silliness and seriousness.”

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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