Contemporary circus is a wonderful thing. Gone are the days when we sit in a massive, cold big top, oohing and aahing at some impossible-looking, death-defying feet performed exquisitely by someone from a distant land; who has probably been learning one trick, or variations on it, since they were about five years old. Now we are treated to smaller, comfortable venues in which shows tend to showcase various skills by the same people and hang together on an actual narrative. The move towards plot-driven circus, of which I am a big fan, has clearly given it a new lease of life and Metta’s The King of Tiny Things is no exception; however I can’t help but wonder if the show would benefit from a little more focus.
The story follows the exploits of two young sisters who, whilst camping in their grandfather’s garden one night, meet the mysterious King of Tiny Things. This beautifully-crafted and charmingly-animated puppet introduces the cautious girls to the many creepy-crawlies for whom he cares. These creatures sing, dance, juggle, stilt-walk and acrobatically bustle about the stage with immense gusto.
Highlights of the performance include a body-popping, rapping slug, a trio of rambunctious, slapstick bats and a morose, five-legged daddy long legs. As a keen biodiversity advocate I very much approve of the nature-loving thread running through the show.
My four year old says she likes it, and it certainly holds her attention, but she can’t or won’t tell me what she likes about it. I understand why. The story unfolds in a rambling fashion and I cannot quite pick out what the central theme is. The performers throw so much enthusiasm into what they’re doing and there’s a lot of creativity here. With a little more concentration on their key skills and a tighter plot it could be a fantastic show but sadly, as it is, The King of Tiny Things falls a little short.
Circus City runs till 31st October
Review by Emma-Louise Hardman