Grand Soft Day
The Ark, On tour
Weather is the inspiration for this gentle celebration of sensory pleasure from Branar, in collaboration with New International Encounter. The setting is a cut-out forest, gorgeously furnished with textured tree stumps and a bumpy woollen forest floor, designed by Orla Clogher. Three friends have come together to explore the woods, but the weather keeps disrupting their plans. The rain comes. Then the wind blows them off course. The sun distracts them, while the snow has them hiding in their coats (colourful confections from Elaine Mears). Still, the trio manage to seize the opportunity for fun, turning the shifting storms into an opportunity to play.
A mostly wordless performance, Grand Soft Day has a wide appeal for its two- to six-year-old target audience. Speech, where it is used, is explorative rather than definitive. Three languages are represented — English, Irish and Norwegian — but the emphasis is not on language acquisition but affirmation. Directors Alex Byrne and Marc Mac Lochlainn keep the atmosphere concentrated but casual. This is aided by original composition from Greg Hall, which he plays live on an array of percussive and stringed instruments. The instrumentation is supplemented by vocals from the ensemble, and the soundtrack fizzes with invention and catchy rhythms.
Performers Helen Gregg, Jonathan Gunning and Linda Scaramella keep the audience involved with wide smiles, sneaky winks, a sprinkle of sprayed water and dusting of snow. Climbing into buckets with boots on soon turns into a barefoot splashy dance. The message, if there is any, in this joyful show is do try this at home.