Puffin: enchanting children's theatre (3 stars)

Children's theatre review: Puffin

credit: Brian Hartley

Clever and musical but indelibly mournful story of two friends waiting for the puffins to return

Clump and Tarkin are waiting for the puffins to return. The pairs of birds should be here today – this is the island they always come back to – but as the two friends bicker and play, sing and dance through the day, it seems that they might not turn up. Ever.

New theatre company Snap Elastic has created an enchanting mix, using Claire Willoughby's musicality as Clump, with Alice Mary Cooper's clowning as Tarkin – all directed by Eszter Marsalko with an initial sense of fun that makes inventive use of Daniel Padden's delicate score.

Clump arrives by saxophone, wandering around the auditorium playing little motifs to members of the audience, getting them to sing them back in a call and response. Tarkin doesn't so much arrive, but lands on the audience, heading for the most densely populated areas as Cooper clambers all over the seats, tutting and getting stuck.

Puffin facts are dropped, not with too much subtlety it must be said. Although Cooper's impersonation of a puffin is particularly effective: she has the bottom wriggle and sidling towards each other down perfectly.

This all takes a very mournful turn, however, as the possibility of the puffins not arriving becomes greater and the reason for the over-eight age recommendation apparent. The facts become less cuddly. The remains of an egg shell from one of last year's pufflings reminds us that they are being starved out of their burrows, as the sand eels disappear. Cooper and Willoughby just about find a redemption, but in keeping with its environmental theme, very little hope.


Classic 'girl meets puffin' story for ages 7+.