An excellent production. You have to keep pinching yourself to remember it's been written and conceived by students!
There is always an air of scepticism when walking into a student-written production, especially when it isn’t the first piece of work from the writer. After Robbie Smith and Aidan Pittman’s success with their independent show last year titled Freelancers, Smith has teamed up with new writing partner Sean Gilbody and script editor Will Hankey to produce Little Puddle, which must be one of the funniest shows of the year.
The show follows the “true story” of the inhabitants of a town called Little Puddle when they get news that their beloved town is to be destroyed in five days time unless they pull off something extraordinary. Norman Fumble, played by the wonderful Rob Bradshaw, decides to lead the town on a mission into space guided by his new friend Brad Channing (Josh Vaasatra), a lost actor masquerading as an astronaut. Along with the rest of the town folk, they endeavour to build a rocket.
There was a very varied cast; for some it was their first appearance in a Showstoppers’ production, but they were joined by a few long-serving performers. Everyone in the cast did an outstanding job, and despite some of the vocals not being all that solid at the beginning, all the performers really came into their own by the end but a special mention must go out to specifics in the cast. After playing the lead in Freelancers, Vaatstra is once again central to this year’s independent show, every part of his performance was a joy to watch and as usual, he delivered the comedic moments throughout his performance to perfection. Rob Bradshaw also did a fantastic job playing the tallest 4-year-old ever to grace the earth; every time I see him perform he just goes from strength to strength and this was certainly no exception. He managed to deliver some brilliant comedic moments alongside emotional ones that any 4-year-old will experience, including a rejection letter from NASA (and as an aerospace engineer, I really did connect with this).
Veteran Showstopper Charlie Randall was once again flawless, managing to steal the show on every opportunity given. His portrayal of Farmer Armitage brought with it some of my favourite moments of the show, and he delivered a number of narrative songs throughout to make you really fell in love with his character. Ben Hughes was also a huge standout to me, with this being his first Showstoppers’ Show. Although only being credited for two characters, he must have played at least double that, with hilarious quick changes, fabulous impressions as well as good vocals throughout. Every time he had a one liner or joke it was delivered with impeccable comic timing, which made them even more hilarious. I simply can’t wait for his comeback to Showstoppers. On another note – it seems to be the year of tap dancing in Showstoppers’ shows, so I tip my hat to Amber Courage and Eleanor Sewell for the impromptu tap number that certainly brought a smile to the face.
The use of a black box worked well as a simple framing for the action occurring on stage. It didn’t detract from the action on stage but enhanced it. The use of minimal set, with the ingenious solution of using a wheely bin as the spaceship, played to the show’s strengths by allowing most of the scene changes to be carried out quickly and smoothly. This ensured the momentum and humour carried through every scene was never lost.
After the standard set by Freelancers, it is safe to say Smith and Gilbody had been set a high bar; a bar which, in my opinion, they smashed, surpassing it many ways with Little Puddle. All of the characters were well constructed, and I felt fully invested in them and their stories throughout the show. The core story arc was, I thought, even more developed than that of Freelancers. I fell in love with the score as soon as the band started playing and there was a great variety of styles so the music never got boring. I really enjoyed glancing over at the band throughout the show as it was clear to see that even they were having a great time; as someone who has played in pit bands myself I know how important it is to have a good score to play and it’s safe to say the score delivered.
All in all, Little Puddle is a simply fabulous production and I hope it one day finds a place on the big stage. A huge well done to everyone involved – you should all be extremely proud. And Charlie, it will always be a “miraweird” to me.
Showstoppers’ year is not over yet! The 24 Hour Show 2017 – which is rehearsed in a mere 24 hours – is performed at the Annex Theatre on 11th June.