REVIEW: One Little Word, M6 Theatre Company (Stratford Circus Arts Centre)

If you are the parent of squabbling siblings who struggle to share, you should share this show with them. If you are the parent of just one child who is learning to play with others, One Little Word is the play for them. And if you are a small human who is surprisingly good at reading and has inexplicably stumbled upon this blog, give your grown-up their phone/tablet/computer back and insist that they buy you tickets to One Little Word.

Mummy had high hopes for this show the moment she saw it advertised. It lived up to them and more. Billed as ‘a gentle story of friendship, power struggles and the rich world of creative play’, it tells the tale of two friends who fall out over taking turns. Told by two actors (who between them utter just a single word) it manages to accurately convey the complexities of childhood friendships in a way that is engaging and easily interpreted by the very young. It is short, simple and conveys a valuable message without being twee or condescending.

And for parents, it is painfully real. So much so that Mrs Mummy (dead inside and prone to falling asleep in children’s shows) almost cried. The power struggle played out on stage is what we see in our home every day. One child playing happily with a toy until her sister takes it for herself. The first child finding something new to play with until that too is commandeered by a jealous sibling. Countless games derailed when one child decides she doesn’t like her sister being in charge and decides to do it her own way. It’s not always the same child in the same role. But it so often ends the same way. With one getting frustrated and walloping the other!

The munchkins watched enthralled as this familiar pattern was acted out in front of them. They saw a fun game spill over into frustration and aggression. They felt the sadness of the child who was hurt. And the shame of the child who had hurt him. Wondered with her what she could do to make it better. Saw her desperately try to make amends with material things. Then from her mouth they heard the one little word to which the title alludes. And they watched as they rebuilt both their game and their relationship.

One Little Word speaks volumes, delivering a powerful message in the way that only live theatre can. Entertaining and thought-provoking, it encapsulates the important role that creative arts can play in helping children develop socially and emotionally. And we got to make souvenir origami boats! So for all of these reasons, Mummy awards it a rating of raindrops, whiskers, kettles and mittens (aka four out of five of my favourite things.)

One Little Word is touring throughout May and June 2019. For details and tickets see the M6 Theatre Company website.