Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin

Smock Alley’s “boys school” theatre space is magical enough without the Collapsing Horse Theatre Company descending. For a young ensemble, Monster/Clock is a good old-fashioned tale. When a reluctant “monster” (who’s really just a boy in a world of puppets) and clock-making apprentice loses his mentor in a kidnapping plot, he leaves the safety of his workshop, embarking on a journey steeped in fantasy to find his teacher and learn what the final lesson of time really is. It’s an energetic fable with dashes of Where The Wild Things Are and Madagascar, structured around a script with depth, smarts and lively comedy.

Jack Gleeson occupies the role of Toby the monster like an emphatic Daniel Radcliffe, a sweet pantomime earnestness that is a million miles from his sinister boy king Joffrey Baratheon in Game Of Thrones. But it’s Aaron Heffernan’s trio of an evil swan, a helpful dragon called Coco and a haggard sea captain that really captivates. His deft, confident, and dexterous performances leave you yearning for him to reappear whenever he is absent.

Usually, productions that try to capture the magic of a fairytale thrive on simplicity, using obvious and easy mechanics. But Monster/Clock strides through its allegory unafraid of beefing up a traditional format. There’s an incredible amount going on throughout; the puppetry is delightful, the shadow play and occasional introduction of miniatures are expertly executed, and there’s a chorus on hand to contextualise settings and move the plot along through song.

While some of the language in Eoghan Quinn’s script might be lost on a younger audience – leading to a slight question mark over who Monster/Clock is actually aimed at – it never fails to captivate, zipping through spooky forests, vast oceans and tropical islands with ease. There’s an awful lot packed into an hour and a half, but the narrative is sealed so tightly, it never loses its way.

This production is wise beyond its years. Brisk, smart and immersive, Monster/Clock could travel as far as the adventures that lie within it.

Runs until Saturday