Developing language is what most of us spent the first several years of our life devoting a fair amount of time to. The endless questions from children concerning the origins and meanings of words, test the explanatory skills, vocabulary and patience of parents throughout every hour of every day.
Most of us just about manage to satisfy the more straightforward linguistic demands made of us, but sometimes, like Alice reading Jabberwocky in Through The Looking Glass, we encounter words that fill our heads with ideas without exactly knowing what they are.
Pop-up Productions, boasting a company and cast entirely based in Edinburgh, bring the story of Jabberwocky to life, while introducing the eager young audience to some methods of making sense of those words that make no sense at all.
Young Jack asks his mum to read him Jabberwocky at bedtime and he falls asleep puzzling over the ‘slithy toves’ and what exactly ‘brillig’ means. Jack awakens to find he has been equipped with a vorpal sword and his cuddly white rabbit is now life-size and talking, although slightly reluctant to join him on his quest to slay the Jabberwocky.
Along the way Jack and Rabbit encounter two slithy toves who are each demonstrating very different ways of ‘gyre-ing’ and ‘gimble-ing’ in the wabe, both insisting that what is important is how the words make you feel and how you put that into action. They invited children onto the stage to join in with the tove they thought had got the definition right and thus the matter was settled.
It was the mome rath who espoused the wise words of the well-known oracle, Humpty Dumpty, explaining all about ‘portmanteaus’ - two meanings packed into one word. For example, ‘slithy’ means lithe and slimy; ‘mimsy’ means flimsy and miserable. This led the way for Jack, with some very enthusiastic help from the audience, to think up some more.
In the end Jack defeated the Jabberwocky, realising that the more scared he was, the bigger the Jabberwocky became. He concentrated on being strave (strong and brave) and in victory displayed the head of the Jabberwocky, which by then was no bigger than his little finger.
This was a thoroughly entertaining and engaging piece of children’s theatre that encouraged and enabled some inspired interaction from the young audience. My daughter and I, at her instigation, played ‘portmanteauing’ all the way home. This served as a reminder that uncovering the meaning of words and conjuring explanations doesn’t have to be testing and demanding. With a little imagination and the right kind of inspiration, language can become a cornucopia of fun (a funucopia?).
Show Times: Running until 25th Aug (No show on the 19th), 9:45am daily
Ticket Prices:: £8.00 (£4.00)