REVIEW: Turtles Don’t Like Plastic, Todos Teatro (Tristan Bates Theatre)

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock at the bottom of the ocean for the last year or so, you’re probably aware of the problem of plastic pollution. And, actually, probably even more so if you have indeed been living under the sea. So it’s no surprise to see theatre companies increasingly focusing on issues of sustainability and how to tackle plastic consumption. Once such company is Todos Teatro, who were formed in 2018 by performer Bethan Screen and director Annabel Morley, and have been touring Turtles Don’t Like Plastic for the last year. We were invited along to the Tristan Bates Theatre this weekend to check out this family production which is inspired by the Pacific Trash Vortex.

Aimed at ages 3+, Turtles Don’t Like Plastic follows a turtle who finds herself washed up on a mysterious island made up of waste material, inhabited by a strange monster who seems insistent on adding to the piles of plastic everywhere. Can she escape the island and help the plastic monster understand the importance of keeping her habitat clean?

Turtles Don’t Like Plastic by Todos Teatro.

It’s a multi-sensory adventure that combines puppetry and clowning to engage the youngest of audiences. It’s perfect for early years, as evidenced by the responses of a little boy who wanted to get involved in the action. It was lovely to listen to him shrieking with joy at the clowning, as well as reacting emotionally to some of the more serious moments. There is a nice balance between drama and comedy, which helps to bring across the environmental message without scaring the young audience but still respects their ability to understand and engage with serious issues. At the end, one little girl offered to help clean up the plastic on the stage, and was quickly followed by all the other children.

Quaver (who turned up dressed as the sea, complete with a turtle backpack wrapped in plastic!) absolutely loved all the slapstick elements. At 8, Crotchet was one of the oldest children in the audience and probably a little old for this production (which we think would be enjoyed best by children ages 3-6) although she found plenty to enjoy and willingly helped to clean up the plastic with the other children at the end. Both munchkins also really enjoyed meeting some of the puppets afterwards, and learning about how they had been made with reclaimed materials. Mummy suspects that there will be jellyfish puppets created in her kitchen in the near future.

We could see this show working brilliantly in schools, particularly with nursery/KS1 children. It’s both entertaining and educational, with the lack of reliance on spoken word making it accessible to hearing-impaired children as well as those who speak English as a second language. A brilliant way to spark interest in environmental issues which could easily be used as a springboard for a whole range of activities linked to the curriculum.

RATING: Raindrops, Whiskers, Kettles & Mittens (aka 4 out of 5 of my favourite things).

Turtles Don’t Like Plastic played at the Tristan Bates Theatre on 12 January 2020. We received complimentary press tickets to the performance.