If my family ever got shipwrecked and washed up on a desert island, I would really hope Emma Boor was with us. Out of the passing flotsam and jetsam she’d be able to conjure up a raft, but it would be a raft with a personality all its own, which would speak and encourage us to take care of each other, and she’d make the whole experience so much fun for all ages that we’d all be really looking forward to the next time we got marooned.
Emma’s company Wild Boor Ideas pop up regularly in Oxford, running workshops, putting on plays, and inviting audiences to take part in whatever’s going on. It’s a shame the latest show, Quick on the Draw, was only there for two performances, and I can only hope it’ll be resurrected once the world has righted itself and people are keener on theatre-going.
Emma herself seemed undaunted by world events and treated us to a wild western artistic adventure, where Sheriff Grandma rounded up some bad guys, and we learnt you shouldn’t judge by appearances. Grandma solved her problems with plenty of tea and knitting, and got visibly younger by the minute - she hobbled impressively arthritically onto stage, but can-canned her way to her final bow.
If you’ve been to a Wild Boor show before you’ll be able to picture the set conjured up out of sideboard drawers, the villains including a mean old footstool tortoise, Fanny Meringue the damsel in distress, loyal steed Mustang Sally (made, I think, from two milk bottles and a handbag), the amazing voices and puppet movements, and a steady stream of terrible puns. There was a very restrained reference to Coronavirus, but one of the lovely things about Emma’s manner is that jokes for adults never undermine the children’s experience. Indeed the adults of our party loved the drawing and shouting out as much as the children, and our 14 month old was completely transfixed throughout.
The heckling was top notch, and Sheriff Grandma deftly fielded an enquiry as to whether she was really Hermione Granger in real life, a child spotting a villain who was supposed to be hidden in his hideout, some extremely enthusiastic lassooing, a suggestion she stamp on one of the bad guys, and one child asking if the red flannel drawers we saw during the cancan were her real knickers.
Given how much care and attention went into the devising, it was sad (if understandable) that the show wasn’t better attended, and that many of Emma’s shows only seem to be on for one day. She must have cupboards full of puppets awaiting a second outing. But she will be back with a new show about gardening in June, and hooray Play The World, her series of theatre show/playdate sessions for preschoolers, returns to Pegasus at the end of April.