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Try a little Tinderness

If you've got kids to amuse, there are still a lot of dark days to go until the end of the month. But our Smart Arse Waiter finds one solution playing at the Unity all January

Published on January 10th 2007.


Try a little Tinderness

Kids are so impressionable these days. And violent. So why the hell did Hope Street and Ullaloom Theatre choose Hans Christian Andersen’s The Tinder Box as their winter show?

The story tells of a prophecy that the Princess will marry a poor soldier, so to stop this happening she is kept in the castle by her possessive father. Enter Pauper Soldier back from the war, who helps a witch retrieve her magic tinderbox. He keeps it, and uses it to win the princess's love. Not dissimilar to Aladdin really, except instead of Robin Williams, The Tinder Box offers up the proposition of three big scary dogs.

But it's not all violence and you can breathe easy as suitable "life preserving" changes have been made. The resolution of the play now comes from talking, and understanding, not excessive bully tactics (one ticket for George Bush please). There’s even a comedy cat. Who is French. Who dances.

I dislike this cat. A lot. If anyone deserved pooch-based punishment, it was the dancing French cat. Sadly, this didn’t happen. In fact nothing sinister really happened. The set, lighting and sound produced some very spooky, dark locations during the first half, but when the scariest (kid friendly) moment was described in an aside, rather than shown, these locales all seemed a bit wasted.

As a fan of the Straw Peter stories ( by "fan", I mean fully grown man who still shivers in his sleep at the thought of them) I was starting to lament the lack of menace. My friend’s kids didn’t mind, though, and, indeed, the second half was much brisker and panto-like.

There was also a fair smattering of songs, performed with impressive aplomb ( as opposed to ol’ bog standard aplomb.) True, some of them lacked any narrative direction, choosing rather to repeat the same line or sentiment over and over, until you wake up in the middle of the night, screaming it, in a cold sweat. And yet, the kids looked to be enjoying it.

By "enjoying it", I mean clambering over and under everything in sight, while asking both sweet questions: "Is she the princess, Mummy?" Slightly foolish questions: "What happens next?" and downright baffling ones: "Is Batman coming on?"

It’s a tricky business making a family show appeal to all its viewers. While it doesn’t accommodate parents quite so well, The Tinder Box is still a solid family show that does a fine job of being suitable and entertaining for a broad age-range of kids.It’s a bit slow to begin with, perhaps due to the adaptation of the original story, but the pace picks up in the second half, and someone kicks the cat, so lots of good times there.

The kids' favourite moments? "The bit where the princess was, like*, singing to her bird." And "The bit where the prince, like*, cut off the witch's head." Can you guess which is the girl and which is the boy?

* Note the use of "like". One assumes to avoid any potential copyright infringement that a verbatim report might have incurred. Clever little blighters.

The Tinder Box, Unity Theatre, Hope Place, Liverpool, until January 27.

Jonny Sanger

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