Review: The Tear Thief, Little Angel Theatre

I’ve held off writing up a review of Little Angel Theatre’s production of The Tear Thief for nearly a week now. It is the sort of production that is best enjoyed over time, a sort of slow sinking passionate affair that you don’t want to end. But life has gone on, and I can just about feel the warmth of the production begin to fade from me. In the interest of being open I should say that I worked with Little Angel Theatre for several years as their Marketing Officer, so any reflection on their work is going to sparkle with memories of that time, so keep this in mind as you read on.

The Tear Thief is an invisible being that floats from the moon to the streets below in search of crying children in order to collect their tears. From rooftop to chimney the Tear Thief hunts down those pearly drops of anger, pain, happiness or – the best of all – pure sadness. Once he’s collected them in a sack and transported them to the moon, the Tear Thief drops them one by one and with every tear the moon shines until it fills the night sky. Carol Ann Duffy’s joyous children’s story is brought to life through the puppetry of Little Angel Theatre’s artistic director Peter Glanville in this production for children aged three and over.

There is no disputing Duffy’s divine words which are masterfully narrated by Juliet Stevenson, in voiceover. The 45 minute long piece opens with a glowing orb that floats across the darkness; the Tear Thief (designed by Jan Zalud) sits atop surveying a town below. Changing from miniature form to a larger rod puppet we see the Tear Thief with silver and shimmering body float silently across chimneys and houses. With little to no text delivered a heavy emphasis is placed upon Stevenson’s narration and the various children characters that pepper the performance with giddy screams and tantrums.

For a piece that has a very thin storyline it is captivating, for children and adults alike. Aside from a few scene changes that could use an extra pair of hands to keep the pace moving swiftly, The Tear Thief captures the imagination of it’s audience and keeps tugging away until like the moon at the end floating in the sky, we too are lifted with elation. For a production aimed at children there is a beauty and calmness which does away with all the happy-go-lucky productions often designed to keep children entertained. For in Glanville’s direction The Tear Thief doesn’t so much entertain as entrance, aided greatly by the live and recorded accompaniment by James Hesford.

The story goes beyond just a fairy like creature stealing tears and looks at a young girl who has lost her dog, and it is from these tears, ones of complete sadness, that the moon can shine its brightest. Other tears don’t have so good an effect. It’s a sophisticated undercurrent to the piece, that shows that children can understand and appreciate a certain psychological depth to a character’s situation. Given that the Tear Thief itself spends a large proportion of time on top of a chimney pot in isolation, lost in the glittering lights of the tears in it’s sack, it’s an emotive piece.

As a whole The Tear Thief is a show of true beauty. It mixes varying styles of puppetry keeping a sense of playful agility about it, whilst provoking a deep response. I left feeling as if I’d come under some kind of spell for 45 minutes, and I really didn’t want to let go. Hesford’s music, combined with Glanville’s direction of puppeteers Claire Harvey and Lowri James is a treat to watch. Although it’s aimed at children, I feel that adults would benefit from spending some time in the darkness of the Little Angel Theatre’s auditorium. So rarely do we get a chance to let our imaginations float alongside the gentle movements of a puppet that The Tear Thief was almost therapeutic for me. Perhaps whilst I was last crying the Tear Thief stole some tears from me, and headed up to the moon to let it shine brighter, this makes me smile, and so too will Little Angel Theatre’s production. Go, be captivated.

The Tear Thief is playing at Little Angel Theatre until 4th November before going on a National Tour. For more information and tickets see the Little Angel Theatre’s website.

Originally published on A Younger Theatre.