It was difficult to know what to expect with Water Babies, the new musical adaptation of an animated film based on Charles Kingsley’s 1863 children’s tale. It was clear throughout that the creative team had been inspired by a fairy tale, as the show demonstrated breath-taking aspects of fantasy, and created a sensory experience that truly enhanced the magic. I had wondered how they would use water in the piece, as the majority is set underwater, but it was expertly incorporated, from the audience being sprayed by water guns (watch out if you’re near the front!) to the beautiful waterfall near the show’s finale.
The links to the animated film were apparent and they created elements of 3D illusion. Both the ambitious set and quirky costumes made us aware that we were in a different world – video and live action was paired to blur the line between fantasy and reality. Some of the fantasy had been slightly overdone and camped up, which drew attention away from the narrative’s centre, but as a whole it worked well and was like nothing I have seen before.
The tale was grounded in morality, and told the story of Tom (played by Thomas Milner) who jumps into a river and goes on an underwater journey to find his way back to the surface to his love Ellie (Lauren Samuels), finding out how to do the right thing along the way from aptly-named fairy Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby (played by Louise Dearman). It was a classic love story with battles between good and evil as we watched Tom learn important life lessons about trust and friendship.
The cast was strong and there were stellar performances from both the principals and the ensemble– their passion and enthusiasm really shone through.
The trio of Jock, Terrence and Claude were the show’s highlights – their hilarious gang of lobster, seahorse and swordfish provided some much-needed comic relief from the more serious main plot, and they created hilarious caricatures of the sea creatures. The three actors worked well together without anyone being out-shone; this is testament to Andy Gray, Samuel Holmes and Tom Davey who bounced off each other brilliantly.
The lighting had a huge impact, and strobes were used to heart-stopping effect in the chase scene and jump that left the audience on the edge of their seats. The cast moved around the stage well, and the different vehicles such as bicycles and scooters brought a fun child-like element to the piece. A great show for all, I think children and adults alike will be blown away by the sense of adventure and fantastical creation of an underwater world.