Review of Ring A Ding Ding at the New Victory Theatre (NY, through Nov 11)

Photo courtesy of Oily Cart.

We saw Ring A Ding Ding at the New Victory Theatre last week, and it was really fantastic.  To read a preview article of the show, you can look at my Dad oriented blog, Dadapalooza.

The show is presented by  is presented by London’s Oily Cart Company.  Oily Cart has been touring their unique brand of theatre primarily in the UK since 1981.  Their mission is to create all sorts of shows for all sorts of kids, and they do it by creating imaginative interactive wonderlands for sets.  Among their tools of the trade have been hydro-therapy pools, trampolines, aromatherapy, video projection, and of course puppets.  Their shows are designed for young kids and sometimes especially designed for young people with profound and/or multiple learning disabilities.

Like most shows at the Studio of the New Vic, it starts with an art project before the show, in this case it was coloring in different kinds of hats to wear– hats that the company wears. George the music man comes out and plays an interesting bell contraption.  The cast comes out and introduces themselves, and all of the characters in the show.  Then everybody has to enter the theatre by ringing a bell.

The runaway dog.  Photo by Cressa Amundsen.

The stage is two concentric circles with a big hole in the middle.  In the center is a tall whirligig that can be spun around and props can be hung from.  The audience and the cast can also spin the two circles in different ways (the cast moves in and out from the stage by sliding under.  There are two rows of seats all around.  The first row for kids, the second row for their adults.

The show is a mix of puppetry, music, and live performance.  The plot is a trifle (and not the point) Alice loses her dog Doggie, and employs a number of friends to try and find it, including a Milkman (Milkie), A Bird (Birdie), a ship’s Captain (The Captain), the Man on the Moon, and some green moon mice (green, you see, because they eat the green cheese that the moon is made of) At the end, Doggie and Alice are re-united, and all is right in the world.

As I said, it’s not the plot but the journey that makes this show.  Each area they explore is full of wonder and enchantment– the characters are very well drawn and played.  I was especially enamored with the actor (Griff Fender) who played Milkie/The Captain. He’s an older working class guy, absurd without being crazy, and brought a lot of fun and gameness to all of his roles.  He reminded me of my friend Ken Campbell, a British comedian who would often appear (literally) in bear feet (ie, slippers that looked like Bear’s feet) and often would say at the start of his monologues “I am not using a microphone because I prefer to shout!”    This show had a bit of a similar sensibility.  (At the beginning, they say “You may have problems understanding us, because we are from London, and we speak English.”  The dog keeps on re-appearing in different modes of transport– balloon, motorcycle, etc.)

The show is full of audience involvement.  Several times they exhort the audience to get up and do something (go and find biscuits and grog for the Captain’s journey, do a moondance to cheer up the Man in the Moon, etc.)  In addition, a series of bells on a rope are passed around, so everybody can ring a bell to help find Doggie.  And the set– the kids in the audience are invited (at appropriate moments) to help move the outer circle of the stage.

I loved this show, and so did my 4 year old son.  (He was a little scared by the fog machine they used, as I don’t think he’s ever been THAT close to the fog machine.)  And the audience loved it also.  The show was done with a wonderful and gentle heart, and really provoked imagination, play, interaction, and fun, without being sacharine, slow-paced, or violent.  In short, it was the perfect show for your young kid.

The show runs approximately 55 minutes without intermission. Tickets are $20 for non-members, $14 for members, and HIGHLY WORTHWHILE. You should see it if you can!

Find out more at the New Victory website.

Here’s a promotional video of the show.

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