Review by Kate Gaul
“Shadow Kingdom “is a puppet show created and presented by Mochinosha. The company was founded in 2012 by Canadian artist Daniel Wishes and Japanese artist Seri Yanai. The two met while studying puppetry together at the London School of Puppetry. Now based in Japan they create puppet theatre. “Shadow Kingdom” is aimed at young people and the young at heart. Using almost four hundred hand-cut puppets, and original music, it presents a fantastic bedtime story. A live animated movie is created right before our eyes! The puppeteers introduce themselves and the show and then sit downstage next to two compact lights and between then create an hour-long story all by hand. The artwork is intriguing. A comic book comes to life, trees turn into birds, and like the best theatre the world becomes magical. Before the show, Wishes and Yenai showed us how they can make their own shadow puppets at home. With a torch and pair of tongs a dragon is created.
A recorded soundtrack accompanies the piece created by Elliott Lorans is also controlled by the puppeteers. They use their own voices to voice the characters. There is a couple of songs that are pre-recorded, and the puppeteers acknowledge that the sound of the voice is different - the audience love the deconstruction of what is happening along with the fantasy.
A child, Minerva, is put to bed, but she is waiting to hear about an invitation to a party and won’t stop looking at her mobile phone. Like parents everywhere, her father entreats her to put it away until tomorrow. She doesn’t want to sleep and impatiently checks her phone again and again for messages. This leads to her phone being taken by Hypnos, the God of Sleep. Minerva decides to get her phone back. The adventure begins.
Minerva meets Owl who, like Minerva, hates sleep. He takes Minerva on a treasure hunt. When Minerva realizes what Owl wants to rid the world of sleep altogether, it’s too late to stop him — he wants everyone to stay awake forever and he can release nightmares to destroy. Minerva must decide to either keep her phone or help save the city. This is a story that tells us children are heroes, about the importance of standing up to injustice and the power that we possess to resist harmful regimes. It never speaks down to its audience.
“Shadow Kingdom” is gripping entertainment and reinforces the importance of sleep and putting away the phone in a way that doesn’t feel too preachy. It’s not often that there’s a chance to see great shadow puppetry and such high-quality children’s theatre.