The Tear Thief at the Little Angel Theatre adapted from the book by Carol Ann Duffy.
Every year the Little Angel Theatre’s treasure chest accumulates more gems, the artistry, music and creative imagination invested in its repertoire never falls below a standard of excellence. Once in a while a real jewel of a production comes along. The Tear Thief is just such a show. A spellbound audience of entranced children and adults were cloaked for the 45 minutes of the drama, in a night time, rainy dream scene. The Tear Thief collected red (rage), emerald (envy), turquoise (self-pity), amber (guilt) and white (fear) treasures in her waterproof sack, visiting house after house where children spilled their emotions, for one reason or another. An invisible creature, she could only be spied if her reflection was caught in a puddle, except to the audience of course, for whom she was embodied in a mysterious elfin creation by Jan Zalud.
Peter Glanville’s production (lyrically narrated in a sound recording by Juliet Stephenson) stays very close to the Carol Ann Duffy story, elaborating the rich imagery within her text. Set design by Simon Plumridge is a magical evocation of urban terraced rooftops, complete with pigeon. The setting and action executed by puppeteers Lowri James and Claire Harvey, capture the character of early evening activity within a family populated, terraced community with loving attention to detail. The production uses back lit shadow scenes, semi-revealed characters and some dextrous puddle splashing. Musician James Hesford has composed an original score for the show, he performs live on cello and violin during the performance. Hesford’s music is key to creating the night time mystic aura with a jazz, blues soundscape that incorporates flashes of Frank Sinatra and Prokofiev alongside his own writing.
The Tear Thief listens down the chimney pots for sounds of woe, foraging for her treasures. There’s a comic familiarity to the snapshot scenes that we glimpse through window framed compartments. The little boy who does not want his hair shampooed, the baby crying at bedtime, the twins fighting over a teddy bear. In our child focused era, we have a tendency to protect our offspring from the fearful and many traditional tales are deemed too frightening for bedtime reading. Children’s laureate Carol Ann Duffy tackles some interesting and challenging areas. Her story creates a space in which the natural expression of emotion exists, without any dire consequences. She also offers an altered perspective on the concept of the thief which is almost exclusively recognisable in our culture as a negative. This Tear Thief is a secretive and calculating being, yet does no harm on her journey and the children seem comforted once she has harvested their lost pearls of joy and sorrow.
The collective question in the room is posed by the character of a young girl out in the night rain who glimpses the spirit’s image, in a puddle. What does the Tear Thief want the tears for? The Tear Thief trades her secret in exchange for the most precious tears of all, those of real sadness wept by the girl over her lost dog. The spirit vanishes and happily her little dog returns. The moon is a powerful and imposing character of awe within the proceedings and the recipient of the sack of teardrops, those of the little girl filling it with the most wondrous light of all.
The Tear Thief ran until 04 November.