REVIEW: Mole & Gecko THE SHOW, Canada Water Theatre

Another stagey weekend brought another trip to Canada Water Theatre for a show intriguingly billed as an “interactive rap musical”. The promised interaction began as soon as we entered the theatre, with Simon (aka Mole) introducing himself to the kids while Will (aka Gecko) strummed away on the guitar. After the traditional five minutes of waiting for latecomers, we moved to more formal introductions in which we were duly informed that the show would involve Simon and Will playing themselves playing characters going on an adventure. An adventure filled with poetry, singing, rap and (shudder) audience participation.

Our story began with a scene reminiscent of Wind in the Willows, in which Simon (or was he Mole by now?) spouting beautiful poetry about a river. Beautiful poetry comically interrupted by Will (or was he Gecko?) bluntly comparing the river to a road. And so it continued.

Having found a boat (later christened “Arthur Queen Peanutty” on the basis of children’s suggestions) the adventure portion of the show could begin in earnest. As could the audience participation, with Simon/Mole leading us in a nautical song. Traditional actions such as “paddle port / starboard” “scan the horizon”, and the slightly less traditional but particularly entertaining “rapids”, were punctuated by off piste encounters such as “worms” and a pause for admin. And then we met a crab. A sad crab hat (worn by Simon and voiced in a style suggested by the audience) who had inexplicably swapped his claw-cleaning stick for individually wrapped biscuits, but was cheered up by an alliterative song (again comprised of audience suggestions). And so Mole, Gecko and their new friend the crab continued on their adventure until they met a similarly sad giant rubber duck, who had somehow also managed to swap his blankie for individually wrapped biscuits. Thankfully the duck was cheered by the song, and so he too joined the adventure.

Things took a sinister turn when we met a wicked weasel (hilariously played by Simon in a tweed jacket and sunglasses) who duped Gecko into trading the boat for bourbons (individually wrapped of course). And here the show turned from something light and entertaining into the reason that theatre is so powerful. For it emerged that the weasel was far from a comedy villain. Hidden under the coat, sunglasses and bravado was a sad and lonely creature who could not understand why he remained empty inside despite binge-eating biscuits and hoarding the wordly treasures of gullible river creatures. His fate was place in the hands of the (small members of the) audience. What would they do?

Despite a dicey moment where a little girl (not mine!) suggested that we kill the weasel, the majority of the young audience proved more emotionally literate and empathetic. So we ended up offering him a hug, ordering him a pizza and singing him a song. Faith in humanity restored, the show ended with a sing-along about friendship. (Mummy wonders whether there was a reserve song for an alternative ending in which the weasel met his maker….)

Mummy and Mrs Mummy both loved this show. Daft and poignant in equal measure, it beautifully fused a range of different art forms and struck the perfect balance between entertaining adults and children. The munchkins were engaged throughout and were thrilled to pose for photos with Simon/Mole and Will/Gecko (and the crab hat and duck) at the end. A great way to spend a wet Saturday afternoon, for which Mummy has awarded a rating of raindrops, whiskers, kettles and mittens (aka four out of five of my favourite things).