I’ve never read Momo by Michael Ende although his best-known work The Never Ending Story was one of my favourite books growing up and I’m looking forward to reading it with Ezra.
When we were invited to check out the stage adaptation of Momo, premiering at Polka Theatre before a brief UK tour, the press team did warn me that the show’s recommended for ages 7+ and Jed might be a little young.
But since we were going to an afternoon performance and the press release promised ‘puppets and songs’, I figured we’d risk it – after all, my 5-year-old is a seasoned theatregoer.
After sitting through the two hour show (there’s one 15 minute interval) with Jed fidgeting so much that he got his leg caught in the back of the chair, I have to agree with the age recommendation. In fact, I’d push towards 9+ for at several points even my 8-year-old seemed confused by what was going on.
Momo tells the story of the eponymous orphan/gypsy girl who arrives in a small town where she has a positive impact on the lives of locals. The bored kids get caught up in playful adventure, the shy barber Figaro suddenly gets up the courage to declare his love to the warm Miss Nina who feeds the town. Guido, the wannabe musician, finally writes a song that makes sense.
But then the mysterious Men in Grey (played by the same cast members) arrive, puffing on their ‘hour lily’ cigarettes and effectively sucking the life out of the town. Suddenly nobody has time for romance or playing -– it’s all work and no joy.
It’s up to Momo, with help from Cassiopiea (a puppet tortoise) and her master, to help defeat the toxic Men in Grey, release the precious hour lilies from the Time Bank and restore balance and happiness to the townsfolk.
Momo takes a swipe at modern culture and our obsession with having more at the expense of simple pleasures. It’s an important and very relevant message but it does feel a bit heavy-handed, especially for kids. However there are touches of light humour, entertaining spectacle and some enchanting a capella singing to underscore the action.
The first half starts to drag although the pace quickens in Act 2 and rounds off in a sweet, uplifting song that had audience members joining in.
I loved the multicultural flavour and original feel of this production although I wasn’t so keen on its length. I did come away curious about the book and I’m sure it will be high up on Ezra’s reading list.
It was also a wonderful opportunity to visit Polka Theatre, one of the UK’s only theatres for children. It’s a warm and enchanting spot with a famous Teddy Bear collection, ride-ons in the main entrance and workshop space (there are often pre and post-show activities for kids). The babes especially enjoyed hanging out in the playground with its huge playhouse.
Ezra’s Review (age 8)
‘I thought it was a funny show because they sucked time away from people and I don’t know why they have to live on time. Because living on time is unusual.
I also thought it was cool because there was a secret spot hidden in the wall and Momo knocked on it and it opened up like a door. I liked that there was lots of adventure and action. It was kind of a bit freaky when the Men in Grey disappeared from their suits, although that just made it more exciting!’
The next showing of Momo is at Polka Theatre on Sat Mar 22 at 2.30pm. There’s also a special All Ages Welcome / Watch with Baby performance on Sat 22 Mar, 11am.
Momo is also touring to Stratford Circus (Mar 28-29) and Greenwich Theatre (Apr 1-5).