Row Your Boat
Seen at Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock
Touring until July 13
Reviewed by Mark Brown
Row Your Boat is the latest offering from Glasgow-based children’s theatre company Grinagog, creators of much-loved shows such as The Edibles and The Pokey Hat. Aimed at pre-school children, it is currently touring nurseries and public venues around Scotland.
The show tells the story of Daphne the Duck (represented by a very cute glove puppet) and her intrepid quest to assemble the ingredients needed for her bubble bath (which has, disastrously, just run out). Transforming her bath tub into a splendid boat, Daphne goes off on a marine adventure in search of soap and, somewhat improbably, “syrup from the seven seas”.
On her travels, the brave little duck meets the decidedly odd pirate Captain Bubblebeard, nutcase “frog doctor” Marine Jean and her web-footed charge Freddy the Frog. Thankfully, this bunch of eccentrics turn out to be extremely helpful on the bubble bath ingredients front, meaning there are no ducky tears before bath time.
The piece is devised and performed by Grinagog’s artistic director Clare McGarry and her colleague Ashley Smith. It combines splendid live music, performed on whistles and an accordion (among other instruments), with the sort of audience participation which is crucial for early years theatregoers.
Whether the children are singing along (with actions, of course) to that timeless nursery rhyme Row, Row, Row Your Boat or hopping to encourage Freddy to pop back into his pond, the show never requires its audience to be mere onlookers for very long.
From its simple puppets to its charmingly colourful, painted backdrop and its occasionally ropey use of recorded music (which McGarry operates mid-performance), the show has an old-fashioned, hand-knitted aspect to it. However, if the observable delight of the young audience at the Beacon is anything to go by, sometimes being old-fashioned is no bad thing.
For tour dates, visit: grinagog.co.uk
This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on June 26, 2016
© Mark Brown