The themes of Anima are ambitious: loss, grief, love and death – all too familiar in the process of growing up, but it is the death of her pet dog, Thunder, which touches Anna’s young world. Rather than sad acceptance, Anna wants answers.
‘Where do you go when you die?’, she wonders, and as the moon rises in a huge glowing globe above her, she shines a tiny flashlight into the blackness. It winks back. Searching her miniature world for props, she totters under the weight of the apple tree ladder, until, with a tiny gesture of her arm, the kindly narrator angles its bars to the moon.
Constantly exasperated by the answers she receives from adults, Anna’s self confidence is never dented. After several arduous journeys through space and time among astronauts, ancient philosophers and great civilisations, her inexorable self-belief carries her onwards. Taking up her bicycle, and pedalling furiously, Anna declares (and not for the first time, much to the audience’s delight): ‘Everyone knows that to go backwards in time, all you have to do is pedal backwards. Everybody knows that,’. Meanwhile, she outstrips a supersonic airliner, a sail ship and a chanting slave galley.
Giacomo Ravicchio’s story has much gentle humour and well-paced refrains which carry the story effortlessly along. While her destinations are far flung, it is the familiar, everyday things known to every child which help to get her there, and she is regularly tucked up in the comfort of her truckle bed before she opens her eyes to a new adventure. And of course, what do adults know?
Visually, the performance is a delight, from dancing butterflies to shadow puppetry, juggling and magic tricks. The beauty of an inverted Chinese landscape, where Anna hung from the roof of the world, was mirrored in her safe return to her upstanding Danish farmstead. The animated silhouettes of a happy girl playing with her grandfather’s gift of new puppy reminded us that the mesmerising kaleidoscopic spinning of Anna’s bicycle wheel had had us all entranced.