A dance piece produced in collaboration with kids – it'll never work, surely
For those parents who believe that your child can do it better, Wobble is for you. A joint Replay and Assault Events production devised for and by 2 – 4 year olds, it's a lively dance project derived, in the main, from workshops held with the kids at Little Treasures Day Nursery in Limavady.
The children acted as creative consultants, cutting the flab and gleaning the gold. One can picture the rather cacophonous scene: tots gurgling and squealing assent at a particularly funny body-pop/fart noise combo, or hurling jelly in ire at a boring bit involving exploratory mirrored gestures.
All the while, boxes were ticked and performances whittled and honed by those who know. In the end, directors Anna Newell and Sandie Fisher moulded the piece into something fit for toddlers. It is performed for the first time at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.
Wobble is about friendship, from faltering first steps to eventual sweeping bromance (or fraumance). The redoubtable Patrick O’Reilly and Stevie Prickett, all day-glo laces and camouflage hoodies, are the tentative buds who convulse, career and wobble their way through the stations of friendship.
It’s an intensely physical performance, more dance than drama, and both performers throw life and limb into it with considerable gusto, surely finishing it several pounds lighter.
Wobble begins with baby steps, as O’Reilly and Prickett anxiously wiggle their fingers at each other. They begin the performance as a pair of wordless, wary individuals, then, as familiarity and a tested trust develops, complement each other’s movements with a pleasing synchronicity.
There’s a certain charm evinced by the likeable pair, who are both consummate and affinitive children’s performers. They leave no gurn unturned in their quest to beguile their diminutive audience.
Wobble is a colourful, kinetic spectacle, but it is dragged out of pre-school focus group nicety by a truly exceptional soundtrack. Composed and produced by Sophy Smith and Justin Yang (the same talents behind Replay’s acclaimed soundtrack for School Under the Stairs), the music flies, floats, glides, jars and generally propels the performances in directions unexpected and thrilling.
For instance, the sinister synth chords that underpin jarring interactions between O’Reilly and Prickett suddenly and seamlessly segue into the gurgling babble of children’s laughter, which then swells into sweeping psychedelic sweetness.
Sounds are blended, textured and layered into the percussive and melodic mix producing an evocative, rhythmic and often cinematic sonic experience. Themes and motifs explored by the performers such as sharing and distrust are exemplified and amplified by the music.
And what of the audience? Well, the mums and dads clearly enjoy it, as mums and dads often do, acting as critical proxies for the smaller versions of themselves. The music is exceptional, after all, and the physicality and chutzpah of the performances is pleasing to older, discerning eyes.
As for the key demographic, well, kids do the funniest things, don’t they? It may have been devised by a demanding bunch of Limavady toddlers, but the Belfast tots in the audience are a resolutely parochial bunch who may not all appreciate the subtle regional differences between the Binevenagh and the Balmoral backflip.
Some are intrigued, others cry, and all react in some way. But, like all youngsters, they dip in and out of attention to the action. In truth, anything that engages children of this age for more than five minutes may be considered a success. While Wobble might run a little longer than that, some compelling moments of sound and vision ensure that this delightful little show gets its five minutes.