Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Loo – visually spectacular scenes of the wind for pre-school/infant audiences (Ponten Pie at The MAC) #bcf19

The Loo is a hot, dry summer wind that moves sand dunes, buries ships in sandy oceans and threatens habitats. This meteorological phenomenon from North India and Pakistan is the inspiration for a Spanish theatre piece of the same name aimed at infants aged 2-5.

It felt like we were back in London’s Globe Theatre as I sat down on a wooden bench that followed the shape of a sunken boat, with fifty or so pre-school/early-primary school children at my feet. Crammed in, cheek-by-jowl with the single performer who was never more than a few feet away from every child.

Starting with small hand movements, a change of lighting extended the rippling to a fabric ocean, with a huge spinnaker-like sail billowing in the wind. As the sun set, the wind and the music calmed.

Performer Natàlia Méndez Castell explores the sandy beach – made from fragments of cork – unearthing maritime objects. She’s unafraid to make a mess, scooping up handfuls of ‘sand’ and scattering them about her as she moves around the whole shoreline, much to the delight of each child she passes. The show’s scale shrinks – and the children’s attention is once more grabbed – as the bow of a small boat is discovered and sailed around the stage before encountering a totally unexpected shower of sand as the wind shifts.

The precise spotlighting directs the young audience’s attention. Together with blasts of air, the lights, the performer and the cork sand create visually spectacular scenes that captivate us all as we ‘watch’ the wind.

While the show’s ending is purposely ill-defined, there’s a real calm on the theatre floor as the youngsters begin to process their stimulating vision of the power of the wind. It’s distraction free, with the mechanics of the effects concealed, leaving imaginations free to flow.

You can experience Loo on Tuesday 12 March at 6pm in The MAC as part of Belfast Children’s Festival. It’s a production by Ponten Pie and El Més Petit De Tots festival.

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