Circus Minimus - Lyngo Theatre



Top-class theatre for the very young.

I've been undergoing a crash course in Lyngoistics over recent weeks. Discovering that, out of four Lyngo productions on view, the three playing a season in the Unicorn's Clore auditorium share a common setting, with children and adults sitting in a large single-row circle around the action in which they are invited to participate.

What fine-tuning designates this show for 2-4s, while What a Wonderful World, here last week, extends to 5s it's hard to say. Circus is more free-form, while Wonderful World develops more through a story; that apart they cover much the same ground. Literally.

With a mum and a dad from the audience each briefly helping, and Airlie Scott's latecomer being roped-in throughout as Auntie, this is certainly a family show. There's plenty of opportunities for 2-4s to involve themselves, whether it's helping keep a moon-balloon aloft, leading sheep round the space or helping turn a full-stage sized cloth into an ocean, its waves tossing various sea creatures.

All this under the guidance of Patrick Lynch's red-coated ringmaster Col Tom Thumb, encouraging involvement through questions and suggestions, building the scene element by element. His symbol of authority, a ringmaster's whip, soon turns into a buzzing fly, following the butterflies that have fluttered around, along with numerous other natural breeds recreated with theatrical ingenuity.

This piece's freer form means that the organisation element in Lynch's description of Lyngo's three productions as 'organised chaos' is tested, but wins out, while allowing space for imaginative creativity and play - something parents find themselves helping with. True, the way several sheep get carried around means it's good they're not real (one or two would need strong ears).

But with individual prompts from some parents, there's a high level of child involvement and the delight in imaginative participation seen in Lyngo's companion shows, all of them more play than 'a play' to young audiences. They're a spontaneous-seeming source of interaction with the natural world and its seasons, and with the family home - things of which young audience members are becoming increasingly aware. This is theatre that works through, and enhances, young audiences' understanding.