Chris Eldon Lee reviews Hotbuckle Theatre Company’s “Emotion on the Ocean” which he saw at Shrewsbury Castle but usually tours Shropshire Junior Schools.
Just when I thought I’d seen it all, along comes a show that is impossible to pigeon-hole … unless you happen to be a whole flock of pigeons. ‘Emotion on the Ocean’ is a happy hybrid of slapstick comedy and social guidance … and it more than earns its corn on both counts.
Feeling stressed is no longer an adult prerogative. ‘Wellbeing’ is now on the Primary School Curriculum because today’s children need help to navigate the modern world. I guess kids have always felt lonely, experienced anger, or got jealous about their best friend’s other friends. But now we have social media to exacerbate everything.
What can we do about it? Well, if you are a theatre company, you can create a highly entertaining show about it; teaching our youngsters about mindfulness, whist having a barrel load of fun.
Hotbuckle’s swashbuckling performers – Adrian Praetor and Joanna Purslow – are commensurate clowns who don the guise of a pair of hopeless pirates. When we first meet them, Captain Crossbones is forever cross … and Jolly Roger is far from Jolly. Their good ship ‘Resilience’ has never left harbour (moored in a cove called ‘E-bay’ ) but by recruiting a crew of willing children they can at last set sail on their voyager of self-discovery.
On their way they meet the characters who will help them. The loveable Sally Seal teaches Crossbones ( and the kids) the art of calm breathing. There’s Ossie, the no-mates Octopus, who needs help making friends. And Sean the lisping Shark who, far from being the terror of the Seven Seas, has actually a become a passa-fish, thanks to some help from his thera-fish. Each encounter gently introduces us to the concepts of ‘being in the now’ and ‘caring for each other’. It always helps to talk.
Jo and Adrian are fine, committed character actors and Jo’s previous career as a reception call teacher has clearly informed their witty, imaginative an informative script. The show is great fun; educating through entertainment. You wouldn’t know you were learning.
It all ends with a joining-in song to remember called ‘The 12 Ways of Coping’ and, interestingly, on my way out I passed a gaggle of young audience members already discussing what they had just learnt. So, it works.