Cryptid Petting Zoo by Headstrung
It inevitable that an all-ages show starring a menagerie of monsters will elicit a few tears from younger and more nervous audience members, but Headstrung’s Cryptid Petting Zoo strikes a nice balance between the gentle and the grotesque.
The set-up is simple – four eccentric characters exhibit their captured mythical beasts before the audience are allowed to view them at close quarters and ultimately pet them after the staged section of the show finishes. Headstrung’s background in street theatre is apparent from the moment that they enter the space – they effectively command and maintain their young audience’s attention as they engagingly and amusingly talk up the various creatures on show. One slightly puzzling carry-over from the show’s incarnation as an outdoor show was the use of headset microphones, which seemed entirely unnecessary given that the cast had no issue projecting to fill the indoor space. I did also wonder if the show was somewhat text-heavy for some of the younger audience members, who responded more to the puppetry than the jokes, which often seemed aimed more at the adults present. The puppetry itself was simple and lively and entirely convinced my two children that there were actual monsters on stage.
Finally, it may seem like a small point, but in a world where animal characters in children’s books still skew overwhelmingly male, and a blank puppet is often assumed to be the same, I was delighted to be able to take my kids to a show in which so many of the weird and wonderful puppet creations were female.