Elena’s family show Adventures of Tom Thumb, in collaboration with Blue Scream Theatre, wins Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh International Festival Fringe.
A GRIMM BUT GLORIOUS FAIRYTALE
So rich are the Grimm Brothers' fairytales that each generation finds something new in them.
Elena Riu and Blue Scream certainly hit on a novel way of presenting The Adventures of Tom Thumb in their prize-winning collaboration, which came to the South Bank for a short run.
Picking up the theme of Tom venturing into the real world to seek his fortune, the show plays with ideas of fantasy and reality.
Tom himself is represented both as a mind-wandering geriatric in a nursing home and as a puppet, dressed similarly as an old man but capable of the flights of fancy of which the story consists.
The puppet is the work of Finn Caldwell, creator of the memorable puppetry in Anthony Minghella's stunning ENO production of Madam Butterfly.
Caldwell also plays the old man and the manipulation, by him and his fellow players - Martin Barron as Daniel Thumb, Eliza Wills as Jeannine - of the miniaturised hero displays a similar expressive virtuosity.
Turning the Purcell Room convincingly into a black box, with skilful lighting by Robin Fisher, the company weaves narrative, music and spectacle into an engaging hour's entertainment for children. Out of a handful of props - a red mattress becomes a giant's mouth, the duvet his stomach - a whole fantasy world is created.
Riu doubles as Queen Mab and pianist, contributing atmospheric music by Crawford Seeger, Gubaidulina, Ustvolskaya, Ligeti, Silvestrov and a little Mozart.
In a different context, some of this music might be regarded as "difficult", but here it seems just right and apparently presents no problems to a young audience.
In that, it's all of a piece with a show that stretches the imagination while giving unfailing delight. Catch it when it returns to the Lyric Hammersmith in April or the Chelsea Festival in June.
The Adventures of Tom Thumb - Barry Millington, The Evening Standard 03.01.07
"this exemplary piece is so beautifully conceived and executed that adults can't fail to enjoy it too. The illusion and narrative are maintained through playful complicity between performers and audience, enhanced by Riu's live piano score and the occasional cheeky one-liner for adults. The result, performed with verve and charm, is a show filled with invention and fun, a celebration of imagination whose conclusion carries a knockout emotional punch"
The Adventures of Tom Thumb – The Scotsman
"Blue Scream and Elena Riu have achieved the rare feat of creating a children’s show that is accessible but never patronising. A captivating production that is in turn both marvellously funny and profoundly moving. If only more adaptations were this inspired"
The Adventures of Tom Thumb - Three Weeks
“intriguing and brave production for children over eight years old and grown-ups. It is a delightful and carefree story, made all the more poignant when you realise that these adventures really are the hallucinatory dreams of an old man”
Following on from three previous sell-out commissions at the South Bank Centre (Jaguar, Around the World with Babar the Elephant and Rumble in the Jungle) and backed by Arts Council of England, Elena’s latest offering, The Adventures of Tom Thumb is a rare gem.
A UK music-theatre premiere showcasing major female voices in composer Seeger and pianist Riu along with hot young talent of the performers from Blue Scream Theatre with contemporary piano music by Ustvolskaya, Ruth Crawford Seeger and Silvestrov, and puppetry from (last seen in Anthony Minghella’s Madame Butterfly) ..
Tom Thumb is lost! He's wandered out of the fairy tale and tumbled into the real world. Recounting stories of hidden treasures, hungry giants and jealous kings, Tom sets about to prove his size!. Puppetry, piano and plasticine men combine to tell a re-imagining of this classic fantasy legend.
Elena and Resonance have a long-standing committment to introducing and tantalising newcomers into music by producing multimedia events that weave together projections, installations, choreography, text, choreography, drama, music and (in this case!) puppetry. Resonance kick-started the South Bank Centre's Children and Families series with the sell -out Rumble in the Jungle, a specially commissioned work which included a site specific installation by top textile designer Kate Blee , for the Royal Festival Hall's Ballroom.
Rumble in the Jungle's success was matched by their second production: Around the World with Babar the Elephant, based on Poulenc's wittily charming setting of Jean de Brunhoff's classic story. Babar opened at the SBC and toured extensively including the Chelsea,, Chester and Cheltenham Festivals.
Jaguar, based on Helen Cowcher's prize winning book of the same title was, again, a massive sell-out SBC's commission which then travelled to the Salisbury Festival, the Canterbury Festival and the Chester Literature Festival among others.
Elena also collaborated with composer David Bedford on "Motormouth", a Music-Theatre workshop for kids at the 2001 Dartington International Summer School.