On the stage a diffident and bespectacled young woman is sat on a bench, waiting for a train. Around her are her belongings consisting of a small guitar, an even smaller suitcase and several piles of cardboard boxes marked in black marker with words describing their emotional contents.
Over the ‘tannoy’ a voice – her voice – announces that her train has been delayed by three hours.
She’s travelling on Great Western, obviously.
Bee Daws packs much in to ‘The Girl who was Swallowed by a Giant’: elements of physical comedy, story-telling, puppetry and music flow seamlessly together to spin a bittersweet fairy tale with grown-up themes swirling beneath the surface.
Her adept clowning and the dexterous manipulation of her tiny doppelganger – the little girl of the title – offered endless delights to the younger (and older) members of the audience. The way she coaxes small yet deft expressions from the doll shows a puppeteer of great economy and skill.
She also manages to breathe life into a bread roll in way that was surprisingly horrifying, in context. I can honestly say it’s the first time I’ve felt the vague stirrings of sympathy for a dough-related product.
But, more than that, she shows great skill at compulsively crafting her tale while balancing the demands of manipulating the puppets, props and a multiplicity of cardboard boxes around her without pause or uncertainty. Everything on stage, including Daws, is constantly on the move and this challenge is navigated with scarcely a false move.
Like any good fairy tale there’s more going on than the younger members of the audience might see moving on the surface. The monstrous giant that tries to consumes us is often less, and more, than flesh and blood and, more often than not, stored up from our own making. Daws leads us through and unpack the compartments of her own ‘giant’ and shows that, while we might not be able to vanquish our own ogres completely, we can pare them down into a more manageable size.
‘The Girl who was Swallowed by a Giant’ is an impressive Shoebox Theatre debut from a multi-talented performer unafraid to talk to an audience with humour, candour and confidence. I look forward to seeing more.