Over half-term I took the kids to see Upswing's Bedtime Stories at The Albany in Deptford. Bedtime Stories is the creation of Vicki Amedume, one of the inspirational role models in circus as celebrated in the Women in Circus evening in Bristol (see post on Women in Circus - click here), who in this show has created a cosy, intimate space for children and their carers to curl up and have time out together. I had been waiting to see the full show ever since seeing a moving short extract at Canvas back in April (mentioned in the post Circus Mum - click here). We made it the nick of time, following a rather nail-biting drive up from my parents in Hampshire, having left them at the last possible moment. Still, within moments of joining friends there, directed to the duvets thanks to the welcome attention of the bunny ushers, all tension slipped away.
Bedtime Stories is the story of a young girl whose mother is so distracted by work and chores, that her daughter invents an imaginary friend for company - summoning up one, two...Three! Together she and Three play tricks and make up stories, while we see her mother on the phone, always just missing calls from her own mother, and drowning in paperwork that literally snows down. Eventually there is a reconciliation. The mother is drawn back into her daughter's present, and (the need for) Three disappears. The story is beautifully told. Hazel Lam as the daughter conveys vivacity and mischief as she reaches for her dreams through stunning aerial silks sequences on bedsheets that become a bridge to the stars, and has a playful synergy with Nathan Johnston as Three, who is an expressive clown with a grace in movement that endows their friendship with a touching delicacy.
Once again, the portrayal of the mother by Lewis Barfoot of the stressed-out Mum was so spot on it made me a bit teary, but this time, at least, I had my youngest snuggled on my lap and her elder sister nestling into me. Actually, maybe that made the tears roll even more. Sometimes all we want in life is someone else to recognise that we are doing our best and have some space to take stock of what we have. That was the gift to me. At three years old, I'm not sure what my little one took away other than raucous laughter at the clowning, and open-mouthed enchantment at the illustrations that come to life. For her sister it was the message that children have a greater imagination than their parents, and that adults don't quite understand how real that is. For her, for instance, it was hilarious that the mother didn't realise it wasn't the girl chucking pillows out of the bed, but Three. And when Three disappears, that is a real moment of loss. So last night, when she was distressed at the dark night ahead and the monsters her imagination might conjure up, I reminded her of Three, and introduced her to my own childhood friend Joseph, in his amazing techni-coloured dreamcoat (I had a thing for rainbows), who would help me check for octopuses at the end of the bed. I held her then, and we both drifted off, exhausted, Bedtime Stories working magic on us both, once again.
Note: for further information, videos and the latest news, including plans for 2016 tour reaching out to disadvantaged families, visit Upswing's site: www.upswing.org.uk/shows-2/indoor-shows/bedtime-stories (click here)