Unlike the 2011 film version, Florence and Richard Atwater’s 1938 book has been returned to its original era (with a change in location from the US to the UK) in Pins and Needles’ production of Mr. Popper’s Penguins and it’s all the better for it.
House painter Mr. Popper lives a quiet life with his wife in Stillwater, but Mr. Popper has dreams, dreams of being an Antarctic adventurer, reading everything he can on the subject and listening for every radio broadcast from his hero Admiral Drake at the South Pole. After he sends a letter to his hero, he receives a strange crate in return – that crate contains a penguin (Captain Cook) and the Poppers’ life is inevitably turned upside down. When Captain Cook starts to fall ill, Admiral Drake sends him a female penguin companion and lots of little penguins soon appear. With their finances under stress, the Poppers train the waddle as a Music Hall act. Animal activists need not get themselves in a twist – an entirely appropriate ending ensues.
This is good old-fashioned storytelling at its best. With a spare but effective set, warm lighting, a gaggle of pleasing songs, simple but appealing penguin puppets and a captivating finale with some gentle audience participation, this endearing show held the attention of the mostly under fives who filled the auditorium for the entirety of the hour-long running time. Sometimes, simple and charming is best for small children. Altogether a warm and thoroughly enjoyable show for tiny theatre-goers.
Runs until 6 January 2019