'Noggin the Nog' – Third Party Productions
‘The Sagas of Noggin the Nog’ sees Third Party Productions introduce big ideas to the small stage, in a reimagining of the popular TV series by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin. Director John Wright's all-male cast of four explore the Land of Nog and all the weird characters and creatures it has to offer. They begin with King Noggin's search for a wife, while his wicked uncle Nogbad the Bad plots against him, and close with an exciting quest in search of treasure.
Attending as a childless, lone critic didn’t take away from my enjoyment of this family show. I discovered a pleasing balance between simple, concise storytelling – aimed at those members of the audience who were probably up past their bedtimes, and down to earth, yet tasteful jokes ¬– for those who were well past their school years!
Graculus, a big green bird who befriends Noggin, is a highlight and a wonderful example of a polished puppet and focused performer coming together. With strips of frayed cloth making up his dark green plumage over a rigid body, he is an elegant rod puppet who flys about the set smoothly in the puppeteer's arms, as his levered yellow beak convincingly lip synchs.
Another treat is when Nogbad the Bad holds open his cape to reveal a set of six black crows nestled within. These cheeky glove puppets, made from soft, felty material and with huge white eyeballs and bright yellow beaks, are the villain's spies. With help from two puppeteers hidden behind the cape, four of the crows tell jokes and spread gossip.
The set also shows ingenuity, as wooden crates and barrels double up as seats, platforms and hiding places. A fake log fire, glowing near the front row, houses the projector for a series of black and white 2D animations (which charmingly evoke the original TV series) but also serves as an atmospheric focal point for storytelling each time the cast crouches around it.
Another interesting dramatic device is how the characters are, at different times, portrayed using three methods – actors, animation and puppetry. Two actors interact freely when playing Noggin and his friend ThorNogson, but when they must climb up a hill, these actors each take control of their own puppet, made from painted wood, to portray the same characters, while animation clips and narration fill in the gaps. Although the switch is sudden and these small puppets are fairly simple – with wobbly, movable arms and legs but without moving mouths – the result is believable.
The appearance of a large, papier mache ice dragon, the head of which is worn by an actor like an apron, is also great puppetry. Such wild characters and settings are a challenge to stage but Third Party Productions succeed beautifully.
‘The Sagas of Noggin the Nog’
Third Party Productions
The Limelight Theatre, Aylesbury