Tony & Mike - The Country Owl and the City Squirrel
ONCE upon a time, there was a townie who hankered to get away from it all and live in the countryside. Adults in the audience smile, knowingly: it's one of the top ten pipedreams.
Youngsters simply feast their eyes on the colourful, picture-book set where a ricketty shed, a huge tree and lots of gardening clutter (including a raised bed of real earth) promise the kind of silly high jinks that make old fables into new fun.
Because, yes, Tom Frankland and Laura Mugridge have taken the classic tale of the town mouse and the country mouse as a springboard for a clever, larky celebration of tolerance, friendship and positive thinking.
Frankland is Joe, the optimistic clutz who has relocated to the house-on-the-hill (nicely miniaturised) at the back of the set.
Only he hasn't told his city-slicker wife Charlotte (Mugridge) who doesn't share his enthusiasm for mucking in, or pretending to be just like the locals. While Joe discovers there's more to fitting in than wearing wellies, there's a similar clash of lifestyles and personalities being paralleled in the puppetry they both turn their hands to with impressive skill.
Owl Tony is outraged when his tree, and snoozy solitude, are invaded by the urban groover Mike, a squirrel who likes to "p-a-ar-TEEE!" and has the disco ball to prove it. There's nothing heavy-handed or preachy in the way all differences are resolved in a song and dance ending.
That's because Frankland and Mugridge have a real affinity with knockabout comedy, an ability to create convincing characters in a few astute facial expressions, gestures or tones of voice - hoots, in the case of Tony.
They just exude warmth, jollity and a playfulness that works engagingly with the target audience (four to seven) but totally hooks the grown-ups too.
Runs to August 24