Showcasing the diversity of families with the true love story between two male penguins in Central Park zoo, the Birmingham Rep and NI Cahoots have created a piece of children’s theatre that is both charming and significant in many ways.
Based on the New York Times article, Roy and Stilo are two male penguins that form a close bond as they walk, play swim and dance together. As the other penguins sit on their eggs to hatch, Roy and Stilo sit on a rock. When the zookeeper finds a discarded egg, he replaces the rock with the egg and Roy and Stilo hatch their own baby, creating a beautiful little family.
Set inside the zoo, the staging has a series of levels where the penguins play and explore. Creating the ambience is a soundtrack that switches between the dialogue of the different visitors at the zoo watching the penguins in their enclosure and wonderfully bright and bouncy pieces of music that compliment the narrative superbly.
We are introduced to the story by Corey Annand who takes on the role of the zookeeper, illustrating the scene of the zoo as she interacts with different animals that are created through the imagination. Cleverly distinguishing between the two sexes of the penguins with different coloured ties, as the night draws in and the visitors at the zoo head home, the penguins snuggle up in their beds and hang up their ties. As we see orange and yellow ties being hung up side by side, our Penguins Roy and Stilo hang up their orange ties together and snuggle down to sleep.
With a small cast, award-winning children’s director Paul Bosco McEneaney simply overcomes this by using both sound effects and having the coloured ties popping up around the set to represent the other coupled different penguins.
It’s the subtly of the performance that makes it so much more powerful and it is performed in the most delightful way. Choreographer Carlos Pons Guerra has created the movement of each penguin to have distinct, charismatic personalities. Both cheeky and charming, Osian Meilir is silly and playful whilst Jack Webb holds it back slightly at the start and we get to watch him warm to Osian as they fall for each other and create an unbreakable bond.
The contrast between the penguins’ exuberant high-energy and their softer lyrical movement differs from when they’re in and out the water. This shift grasps the attention of the audience as we are drawn in to connect with the penguins’ personalities.
When their egg hatches, Corey Annand transforms into the baby penguin who has just arrived into the world. Flapping around with her parents, it’s the perfect picture of a happy family and the way they move together is enchanting.
Penguins is a production that engages children in the ever-changing meaning of family through an endearing narrative bursting with animated expression.
Penguins runs at the Birmingham Rep until the 10th of Feb before embarking on a UK tour, tickets and information can be found here.