Roger McGough is one of Britain’s most loved children’s poets, with both an OBE and a CBE to his name and a literary career spanning half a century. Sky in the Pie takes a handful of his many poems and stages them cohesively for a family audience in a truly unique spectacle of spoken word, dance, song, acrobatics and puppetry.
The show has been put together by creatives at The Feathers of Daedalus Circus who have been active since 2016 in bringing ambitious adaptations of surrealists stories to the stage, and this latest performance certainly hits the mark in inspiring a young audience to engage with poetry on a different level. While McGough’s poetry can hardly be considered dull, the exuberance exhibited in this staging is infectious and engaging; and even the wriggliest of pre-schoolers will be captivated at least for a short time.
Each poem has been selected and placed in a sequence of events that loosely follow a child’s first day at school; from morning to night, classes, lunch and playtime. While not a story exactly, placing the poems in a relatable context and timeline maintains a flow from one to the next with a defined beginning, middle, and end structure that will stop young audience members from getting lost even as the ordinary swiftly becomes extraordinary. Some poems are distinctly familiar; a few being included on English curriculums across the years; and some are brand-new or have been updated specifically for the performance.
The acrobatic displays ranging from cartwheels, to poetry recited upside-down, to tricks on a Cyr wheel are slick and impressive enough to encourage applause from as many adults as children. This is where the performance thrives, and is of course The Feathers of Daedalus’ speciality; producing seemingly fantastical feats that truly capture a child’s imagination. The puppetry is artfully done; particularly during “The Boy With The Similar Name”, however the puppets themselves could perhaps do with being larger to appreciate their animation and avoid them being obscured. Some of the poems are performed as songs; which breaks up the spoken word portions into a similar structure to a standard musical. These are performed with conviction and gusto by most of the cast, and the enthusiasm makes up for any misplaced notes. Children will enjoy small sections of audience participation that invite them to think about poetry and again keep this easily-distracted age group present and paying attention.
While clearly designed for children aged 4-12, there is really something for all members of the family to enjoy in this show from infant to elderly. Lucky fans may also have the opportunity to meet Roger McGough himself after performances to sign his books or snap a picture. This is a children’s show with a difference, and definitely a fun way to spend a half-term afternoon.
Catch Sky in the Pie at the OSO Arts Centre, Barnes Green until the 22nd of February, or at The Vaults from the 6th-8th of March.