Puppet magic for the very young



In this season of goodwill, spare a thought for the very youngest members of the family: being dragged along to an ear-splitting pantomime they don’t understand isn't necessarily the best introduction to a life of theatregoing...

It’s with small children in mind that Z-arts is offering Manchester’s only show aimed at two-to-four year olds. In association with TouchedTheatre (sic), The Gift (December 16-31) is an immersive puppet show starring a child-robot called Zee, whose arrival on a space station throws a grumpy astronaut’s ordered world into disarray.

Young members of the audience are even encouraged to bring favourite cushions and pillows from home to make their own "planet mats".

The Gift has been created by award-winning puppetry and early-years artists, including director Darren East – former associate artist at The Little Angel Theatre, London, the home of British puppetry ;and Anna Newell, an artist The Guardian called “a hero of children’s theatre", and is performed by puppeteers Mohsen Nouri (Star Wars, Disney, theatre-rites, Polka Theatre) and Aya Nakamura (Oily Cart, Norwich Puppet Theatre, Little Angel Theatre, Horse & Bamboo).

TouchedTheatre is originally from Manchester but is now based on the south coast, and specialises in puppet-based theatre. First inspired by children’s experiences of lockdown and separation from friends and family, the show is an original story about the magic of gift-giving and friendship. The group works long-term with Brighton & Hove Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services, and is supported by the National Lottery and BBC Children in Need.

Company co-director Beccy Smith said “It’s been a long wait (the show was originally intended for Christmas 2020 - Ed), but it has only made us more excited about bringing cosmic Christmas fun to the audiences we have missed so much.”