Warwick Arts Centre, University of Warwick, Coventry
October 30, 2022
It’s amazing what you can do with a few big cardboard boxes and a bit of imagination. Even reach the Moon! That’s precisely what five children dream of the Motionhouse’s new Starchitects. While it is certainly a celebration of play and childhood, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s simply a children’s show. They will love it, but this is very much an entertaining hour that everyone will enjoy. Smiles and laughs all round are guaranteed. It really is a lot of fun.
The show effortlessly mixes circus, pantomime, children’s games, and the digital projections and thrilling acrobatic dance that Motionhouse is noted for. Having the dancers enter via the audience with the house lights up creates an immediate bond. Once on stage, involvement comes early too, a hide and seek game producing more than a few cries of “He’s behind you!”
Those cardboard boxes are pressed into use in myriad ways. Dressed in colourful pyjama-like costumes, the cast of five create a sort of R2D2-type robot (at least that’s what my imagination saw), a roller-coaster, a bird, a telescope through which magical things are seen and, of course, a rocket to the Moon. There’s even a neat take on the old sawing a lady in half trick.
The great thing is that every single one of the ideas can be taken home and reproduced. Indeed, at some shows, the company have ‘stay and play’ sessions, providing boxes and space for youngsters to play and recreate what they have just seen, which are always taken up enthusiastically.
If you are going to the Moon, you need to train, though. Look out especially for the clever human bike. Then, with nightwear swapped for silver dungarees, hats and goggles, it’s time to blast off.
The lunar landscape, it turns out, is not only home to the two fairies previously seen through that telescope, but also the most utterly brilliant monster. Imagine a green-hooped sort of Slinky-style creature, with four long ‘limbs’, two of which with huge eyes on the end of them, and you are sort of getting there. But really, you need to see it. Cue a great chase, which leads into an underground adventure (the projections here will bring back memories of Broken), before our adventurers are rescued by those fairies.
There’s plenty of time for another fast acrobatic dance sequence (this time recalling Scattered), the performers in perfect synch with the lava splashes on the projections as they dive through the slatted upstage screen, before yet another use for the boxes is found in a red lava raft ride down some rapids.
There is so, so much more in a show that’s full of surprises. Starchitects really does pack it in. Its 55 minutes or so absolutely flies by. The heavily family-oriented audience loved it. The excited chatter of the youngsters in the foyer afterwards told you everything you needed to know about their reaction. There were a lot of very happy looking grown-ups too, this one included.
Now, I think there might just be some big boxes in the attic…
Motionhouse’s Starchitects is on tour through to summer 2023. Visit www.motionhouse.co.uk for dates and venues.