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Varmints, The Old Market, Hove, May 21
Varmints is a dance-theatre piece based on a book for children by Helen Ward.
This 55-minute show – with its 8+ age recommendation, 6pm start time, plus performance for schools – was clearly intended for kids. The story is nature versus the city – “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot” – just what we think our children need.
The production was faultless. The original music was exquisite, the lighting perfect, the set delightful and imaginative. The whole show was wonderfully imaginative. Inspired. Parents left feeling self-satisfied that they had exposed their kids to a special, creative experience. It ticked all the boxes.
Inspired yes, but was it inspiring for its target audience?
Kids do not appreciate production values. They want plot and character. The four dancers were as technically magnificent as the rest of the show. But there was about as much characterisation as in the game the lad sat in front of me was playing right up to the moment the lights went down.
For kids over eight, Varmints does not pack a punch. When the show ended, I exited with my 11-year-old son and wondered whether our time might have been better spent out in the sunshine rather than in a dark theatre – one possible interpretation of the story itself.
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