THEATRE REVIEW: The Suitcase Kid, Act II Theatre Company's Pint-Sized Players, South Holland Centre, Spalding
How does a child deal with the personal turmoil and turbulence of their parents' marriage ending?
Act II Theatre Company's Pint-Sized Players took on the potentially difficult subject of divorce and new relationships at Spalding's South Holland Centre yesterday (Saturday).
Ex-Poet Laureate Dame Jacqueline Wilson's second book, The Suitcase Kid, was the test set for school Year 7-11 children by Act II's Alice Haley as the play's director.
With a mix of dialogue, incidental music, mime and dance, a cast of just 16 youngsters brought confidence, determination and pure enjoyment to their interpretation of Dame Jacqueline's tale of ten-year-old Andy and her toy rabbit, Radish.
Andy used to live with her mum and dad at Mulberry Cottage, along with Radish who made its home on Andy's pocket.
But "then it all went wrong", as the souvenir programme for the play said, as Andy's mum goes to live with Bill and his two children.
Meanwhile, Andy's dad makes a home with Carrie and her two children, with another one on the way.
The Suitcase Kid features Andy's account of her tug-of-war between her two parents, comparing it to living out of a suitcase as Andy shuttles between the two home and contrasting families.
Childhood tensions, a longing for the way things were and constant arguments sends Andy down a spiral of growing pains, with only Radish available for support.
One day, Andy finds a secret garden with a mulberry tree which she christens as her third home, a place where she and Radish can escape from parental rows and sibling rivalry.
This mulberry tree escape brings back memories of Andy's perfect life at the former family home called Mulberry Cottage.
After a history of illness, tellings off at her school, fights at home, family counselling and, not forgetting home-made orange jelly that was really brown cottage, Andy brings her parents back together momentarily.
She does this by accidentally dropping Radish down a tree and sneaking out in the middle of the night to rescue her toy of love.
But if Andy is reading this review, she will be quick to say "Radish isn't a toy, she's a mascot - she's mine and she's private".
The whole story is told with the use of the alphabet, from "A is for Andy" right through to "Z is for Zoe", her dad and Carrie's new baby.
For a group of seven to 11-year-old children to take on the challenge of committing hundreds of words to memory, then bringing them to life in front of parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters and a newspaper arts critic is no mean feat.
But the Pint-Sized Players pulled it off with delightful innocence, precocious perseverance and a fierce devotion to one of Britain's most revered children's authors.
There was no single, standout performance in The Suitcase Kid because they were all standout performances.
As Andy said herself, "Life can take some unexpected turns".
But Act II's Pint-Sized Players will have learned that if Andy thinks life is "as easy as ABC", she is in for some very rude awakenings.
Thankfully, the play was the complete opposite - a thoroughly enjoyable Saturday afternoon of children's theatre.
Review by Winston Brown