Row Your Boat

Parkhead Library, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

four stars

FROM the toddlers’ point of view it is all about joining in and helping Daphne the Duck resolve a bath-time crisis: she has ducklings to wash and no more bubble-bath. The youngsters in the audience are well on-side. Baths without bubbles are no fun. Daphne, however, is not just a lovable, cuddly glove puppet, she has smart collaborators on hand, ones who know how to make a simple story-line into a rollicking forty minutes with cheery live music and oodles of audience participation.

Daphne’s assistants are Clare McGarry (artistic director of Grinagog Theatre) and her colleague/co-deviser Ashley Smith. Past Grinagog triumphs have included The Pokey Hat which toured in its own cunningly customised ice-cream van. Row Your Boat is also portable, albeit in the “two planks and a passion” class, with the emphasis on class. Like many venues on the current tour, Parkhead Library is an everyday space. No matter. The set-up – a painted backdrop, floor cloth and bath – is self-contained and doesn’t need theatrical effects, although the moment when the bath transforms into Daphne’s adventuring boat is as magical a surprise as you could wish for.

Row your Boat is an entertaining and resourceful mixture of wise imagination, wittily-crafted details and engaging, affable performances from McGarry and Smith – the latter in aaarr-some piratical mode as Captain Bubblebeard and goofily eccentric form as frog doctor, Marine Jean. Long after Daphne and her bubbles have packed up, small voices are still singing “row, row, row your boat...” Lo-tech, maybe, but high on effective charm. Welcome back, Grinagog.

Touring to Eastwood Park Theatre tomorrow at 11am and 1pm, The Foundry, Barrhead on Saturday at 11am and 2pm, and Platform, Easterhouse at 11am on Wednesday July 13.