Oxford abounds with toddler celebrities - no not those cute instastars who are themselves under 5, but excellent adult performers with a vast following of very young fans. The rock star is Nick Cope, whose albums are compulsory for car journeys with smalls, and whose songs are alarmingly memorable. But in the theatre world it's Emma Boor who creates new shows with impressive regularity, as well as play sessions for teenies, workshops, and sometimes alternative Christmas entertainment too.
In her latest venture she becomes a restaurateur, feeding animals, including a hungry caterpillar. Unable to pay for his food (no pockets...) he dances for his supper. Chef Emma cooks, the caterpillar entertains, eats, sleeps and grows, and you can probably guess the ending. But the simple plot allows for plenty of diversions, and the cooking and washing up scenes are rich seams of comedy.
As a prolific entertainer, Boor has a fine sense of what appeals to children, with the right number of repetitions, audience interaction without overexciting or singling out, using props that really help tell the story, and best of all including the sort of jokes that preschoolers find hilarious without making their accompanying adults wince. She even includes jokes for the adults that go over the children's heads but don't undermine their viewpoint, in this case about tidying up by hiding things behind tree trunks. A sketch with a custard pie made the older audience members chortle all the way through the leadup, while the youngest just enjoyed the splat at the end.
There was a slightly odd mix of styles, in that the scenery was very swish, graphic designed to within an inch of its life, while the puppets and props were more homemade and organic. Personally I prefer the characters-made-of sink-scrubbers effect, but when the puppetry is well choreographed a caterpillar's a caterpillar, whatever he's made of.
We took a four year old and a babe in arms, both of whom enjoyed themselves, and the young portion of the audience ranged up to about 8. But Boor's genuine warmth and sense of fun mean that everyone will get something out of her shows. The play sessions, weekly at Pegasus, have unfortunately finished for this term and resume in September. Meantime you can catch her show and puppet-making workshop Tree Goblins on 3rd August.