Stage adaptation that’s just about purrfect
This article is from 2011.
In 2001, Bagpus came fourth in Channel 4’s 100 Greatest Kids’ TV Shows opinion poll – and for good reason. Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin’s 1970s programme had a warm simplicity that hooked you in with imaginative tales, then rocked you gently in its arms. So too Birmingham Stage Company’s inspired adaptation.
Set in Emily’s infamous shop, the show takes three original episodes – The Hamish, The Ballet Shoe and Uncle Feedle – and reinvents them for the stage. The programme’s major players, Professor Yaffle, Madeleine the rag doll, Gabriel the toad, the organ mice and, of course, Bagpuss himself, are all manipulated by two talented performers. While the short films, once shown through the thought bubble above Bagpuss’ head, are now acted out in full.
The central conceit (which is more for the nostalgic adults in the audience than their young charges) is that Emily is now grown up, and has returned to the shop on the day of her father’s funeral. There, she encounters a young girl (her younger self presumably) and a whole heap of memories. Together, they bring the toys to life, peppering the tales with some of Postgate’s most memorable lines.
There are so many things that Birmingham Stage Company has got right in this beautifully constructed production, it’s impossible to list them all. But the set is certainly one of them, perfectly evoking the original shop, with a few innovative embellishments. The two hard-working performers deliver each character with gusto and sing beautifully, keeping children engaged throughout. While the use of the original music, and re-worked sepia-tinged photographs ensure this is a touching trip down memory lane for the adults.
Assembly George Square, 623 3030, until 28 Aug (not 15), 12pm, £12–£14 (£8).