Monday 27 November 2017

The Hunting of the Snark

The Rose Theatre has been host to some fabulous children's programming this season. Over half term we were treated to a performance of the scrumptiously quirky Hunting of the Snark, based on Lewis Carroll's poem.

It's a tricky poem to share with children as it is long and rather complex, but it is packed full of weird and wonderful creatures and delightfully nonsensical activities that speak so perfectly to the imagination of the child. This theatrical adaptation brought the poem to life in a memorable way, unlocking the world of Carroll's quirkier imaginings visually - resulting in repeated readings of The Jabberwocky and even sections of the Snark itself in the days that have followed.

Retaining the essential elements, but ensuring that the play was as coherent and appealing to a young audience as possible, The Hunting of the Snark production follows the story of a young boy and his sad relationship with his money-obsessed Father. When it is broadcast on television that a Snark has been sighted in the wild by a group of holiday-makers, the greedy banker seizes the opportunity to make some further cash and gathers experts, staff and hires a boat to capture the fantastical beast. His son, determined to be a part of the expedition stows himself away on the ship, which is also home to a baker with amnesia, a knitting beaver and the world expert on Snarks. Also on board is a vicious butcher, who wants nothing more than to put the elusive beast in her cooking pot. The mission requires patience, and some rather left-field thinking; the Snark can't be found using conventional means. The group encounters the Jub Jub Bird and the frumious Bandersnatch. Ultimately the Snark seems within their grasp, but as the expert explains it is impossible to tell whether a Snark on sighting is either authentic and friendly, or the dangerous Boojum. If the latter, a mere touch will disappear you away. What a risk indeed!

Frivolous, but with an important message about what is really most important in life, the production also taps into Carroll's wider themes that imagination requires practice and nonsense can be exceedingly good for us.

“Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said. 'One can't believe impossible things.'
I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. There goes the shawl again!”

There's some great reading material available to accompany this production. For the littlest children the Babylit Jabberwocky by Jennifer Adams and Alison Oliver is a current favourite again. I've reviewed this clever series designed to introduce the classics from the cradle here. We've also been dipping into Chris Riddell's brilliantly illustrated The Hunting of the Snark, created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the poem. And then of course there is Alice. We have a great Barnes and Noble volume containing Carroll's main works, and there are several wonderfully illustrated adaptations from Emma Chichester Clark and Usborne's picture book series and early reader versions. Finally we found Graham Oakley's imaginative sequel to the famous poem The Return of the Jabberwock.
“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

The Hunting of the Snark is touring, next stop Sydney, and listings of the next set of family shows at the Rose Theatre Kingston is here. Over Christmas they will be showing Alice in Winterland. More on this soon...

Disclaimer: We received tickets to the Hunting of the Snark in exchange for an honest review. We also received copies of the Babylit and Alice in Wonderland Barnes and Noble edition. All other resources are our own.

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