The Story of Mr B (5 stars)

A tiny tale, told with love in a giant pop-up book

The Story of Mr B

Brave, tragic, compassionate and hilarious by turns, Shake Shake Theatre's The Story of Mr B lifts its audience into its heart and holds them there. With great humour and a real sense of how the minds of youngsters over about three-years-old work (while making sure any younger siblings won't be bored), it tells of life, love, forgiveness and regret.

Mr B is Mr Bumblegrum, a wonderfully dumpy puppet of an old man who lives alone, deep in the forest. Not even the mushrooms are his friends and he spurns the birds' beauty. His job is to count the trees, and that is what he does. But where did he come from? And how did the once-friendly waiter in the restaurant car of a local train arrive in this lonely place?

If grown-ups will admire the daring with which The Story of Mr B addresses the big issues in life – just as any great theatre should, whatever age it is aimed at – everyone will be fascinated by the intricate, cleverly constructed book through which the story is told.

Open it up and it becomes a forest where Bumblegrum's house pops-up, out of the page. Turn a page and a tiny train puffs over distant mountains then out onto the stage, big enough for young Mr B to climb aboard. Windows open to reveal his adventures told in crisp, precisely illuminated shadow puppets. Above, a giant parasol sun twirls in anticipation, singing to Mr B in a vain attempt to cheer him up.

It is the telling, though, which is so engaging. Puppeteers Jessica Nicholls and Pierre Filliez have a natural rapport which makes the theatre itself an easy place to be as their audience arrive – before they gently take them into their world and reveal the many splendid things which happen there.

Institute francaise d'Ecosse, until 28 Aug (not 22), 11.15am & 2.30pm, £8 (£6).

The Story of Mr B

  • 5 stars

Shake Shake Theatre present a puppet show set in a big pop-up book.


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