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The Marlowe Theatre has two shows playing as part of their 2023 Christmas season, with the Aladdin pantomime in the main theatre and The Littlest Yak in the studio venue. Lu Fraser and Kate Hindley’s children’s book has been adapted into a musical by Kent-based LAStheatre and with support from the theatre, Arts Council England, Backstage Trust, Kent County Council and Folkestone Town Council, the production is enjoying a December run in Canterbury. The family show brings the heartwarming tale of the littlest yak ‘Gertie’ to life on stage through catchy musical numbers and creative puppetry. I was fortunate enough to be able to review the musical yesterday afternoon, on its opening weekend here in Kent.
A musical story for young children and their families, the production follows a charismatic herd of yaks in the Himalayas. Within the herd there is one little yak and with her small size, she feels unhelpful in their community efforts. Despite encouragement from the group, it takes a big and brave adventure for the character to appreciate her worth and realise that she doesn’t need to grow up just yet. It’s a very sweet story, full of lots of yak-inspired humour and facts.
An introduction to theatre for little ones
At approximately 45 minutes in length, it is a great introduction to theatre for young children. There is lots of opportunity for audience interaction and participation, with the performers facilitating this through their infectious energy. The show is best described as a celebration of self acceptance, told through the eyes of the adorable Gertie. The endearing characters teach their young audience some important lessons, all through the framework of dynamic puppetry and music.
Thoughts on how the story translates to the stage
Character introductions take up a large proportion of the show, so much so that by the time we get to Gertie’s big adventure, the ending feels a little rushed. Given the short running time, the musical could benefit from a slicker approach to character development, so that there is more time for the climax and the underlying messaging towards the end.
Simple but effective staging
LAStheatre utilises a simplistic, wintry set that illustrates the hills and mountains of the Himalayas. The yak heads get cleverly attached to the rounded shapes of the set at intervals throughout the show and when connected, it looks like the hills are the bodies of the yaks. It gives the impression that the set comes alive and is such a creative way to approach covering multiple characters on stage.
Puppetry and song
The combination of clever puppetry and song is the highlight of the show, with actors Michaela Murphy, Darcey O’Rourke and Felicity Sparks portraying the yaks with high energy and charisma through their acting and singing. Opening number ‘Come and meet the yaks’ is infectious with its joyous melody and character performances. In contrast, the peaceful and poignant ‘Every star is a story’ is backed by O’Rourke’s soft guitar strings and vocals, teaching a beautiful message about ancestry and heritage. Murphy is responsible for the utterly adorable puppet movements with Gertie in this number, as the little yak curls up to go to sleep. You can’t help but react with a loud ahh!
Securing tickets for this wonderful, little production
With performances running until 31st December and all tickets priced at a very reasonable £16, the show is a fantastic opportunity for families to see some theatre this Christmas. The Littlest Yak is perfect for little ones, introducing them to theatre in the relaxed Marlowe Theatre studio setting. Tickets for the remaining performances can be secured via the theatre’s website.
Thanks for reading my blog today.
Love Kat xxxx
*My ticket for The Littlest Yak was gifted in exchange for a review.