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Solstice Review – a shimmering and heartfelt ode to nature for children | Theater

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TThe particularity of this immersive light experience intended for young children is the freedom it leaves to its audience. Puppets, storytellers and other friendly faces appear throughout this seasonal adventure, but it’s up to children to chart their own path. My son Benji, 3 years old, is at ease from the start, approaching luminous animals or light installations at his own pace, in his own way.

A collaboration between BAC and immersive events experts Wild Rumpus, it’s essentially a nature-themed sculptural installation for little ones, with the added bonus of interactive woven elements. We start in spring. A canopy of rainbow-colored paper streamers hangs from the ceiling, and oversized flowers and nest-shaped sculptures are scattered around the room. Tables invite children to add their own sketches. As Benji doodles, a giant but delicate dragonfly puppet floats around his face. It could have been a slightly frightening encounter, but in this carefully arranged space – with soothing music and smiling puppeteers – it’s a warm and sweet moment.

Drawing finished, Benji announces, “I don’t want to be in this room anymore,” and we venture into summer. Swarms of sculpted bees and blooming flowers line our path. The room beyond glows invitingly: it’s a cozy space filled with lamps, chairs, cushions, and benches, all bathed in a honeyed, golden glow. Children naturally recognize this environment – ​​it’s story time – and they settle in to listen to the story of a winter wolf, sad and alone, while all his other animal friends sleep, crouched for winter.

The Solstice Wolf at Battersea Arts Centre, London.
Warm and gentle… the Solstice Wolf at Battersea Arts Centre, London. Photo: Wild Rumpus

The story is told brilliantly but it’s a bit thin and never properly integrated into the experience. There’s a plotline about cheering up the wolf and sharing our hopeful stories, but it doesn’t take off. The production is aimed at those over three years old but, although the elements of the installation could accommodate a much younger audience, the more sophisticated aspects of the story elude Benji.

In the winter room, decorated with snowy canopies and silver tree trunks, we finally meet the lone wolf – and he is a beauty. With soulful eyes and a body that glows with the gentlest light, this wolf is the gentlest of creatures. Benji proudly announces “I’m not afraid” and happily pets the wolf, examining it carefully from all angles. All the children come closer, curiosity piqued and fear banished.

In the later rooms there is space to create our own shadow shows and create stars filled with happy stories. It’s a bit of a child’s play – part playgroup and part full-fledged theater – but it remains a wonderfully open affair that invites young audiences in and allows them to experience the sparkling natural landscape on their own terms. terms.

At Battersea Arts Centre, London, until December 24

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