“Lightning Path | Llwybr Mellt combines skilled puppetry with beautiful animated projections and original music, to tell a tale of our times. Ella wonders why her family farm is flooding. Her Grandfather worries about eels not coming up the river anymore. On a magical journey with Harri the flying hare to changing landscapes across the world. Ella meets curious creatures and people that help her learn new ways of understanding and caring.”
Kathryn : “I went to see Lightning Path|Llwybr Mellt from Small World Theatre with my two daughters; aged 10 and 12 at Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff. Going in to the theatre we were asked to sit near the front, which immediately proved how British everyone was, not wanting to sit next to anyone else, when there was the space to leave gaps. We were faced with three trunks on stage in front of a screen. My daughter asks why, I explain there will be a mixture of puppetry and animation.
We are initially surprised when we discover the performers were already on stage, which causes some giggling from behind us. We are introduced to the characters. Some of the audience is confused when Harri the hare starts talking in Welsh. When Harri speaks, Ella repeats his message in English, but while it seems obvious to the adults in the audience that she is acting as translator, not all the children seem to get it. Ella also sang in Welsh, without translation. Although I don’t personally speak Welsh, I thought it was a meaningful attempt at making an inclusive, bilingual piece, but it made the dialogue seem bulky. Having to translate Harri constantly, slowed it and made it word heavy. I wondered if doing it in one language at a time might have helped it flow better, or finding a different way to translate the two languages. (Obviously words on a screen wouldn’t have worked for everybody, due to the age of most of the audience). This production was signed too, which I thought was great, and I could see the benefit of this for some of the audience members.
The story told of Ella and her Grandfather, the flooding and the lack of eels. This led Ella and Harri to travel the world in search of the missing eels, which then led her to the realisation that “Man” was to blame for ice melting in the Arctic, trees being felled in the rainforest, desertification, and plastic in the oceans. I felt the story tried to fit a lot in to an hour piece, it felt very full and a little rushed, with the music and animation being a welcome break in the speed.
The puppetry was very well done, especially the movement of the hare, I enjoyed the shadow puppetry on screen, and how they mixed it with animation, and the basic set changes using the trunks, fabric, and lighting. The use of torches to show the eels, included the audience, and again got the attention of those young children who were finding the hour more of a struggle.
I left feeling like it was a work in progress in terms of the dialogue/story. This was because it felt a little rushed trying to fit in so much information, introduce so many characters, and environments and explain the ecological issues. Then how this linked in with the eels, and all the while translating Harri’s input, in an hour show. I almost wanted Ella and Harri’s story about learning about the environment to be introduced more simply, and her curiosity to be enough. The background story of her grandfather, the cow, the eels and the lightning, explained why Ella was curious, because she could see the environmental impact in her own back yard. It inspired her to find out more, and, after her trip, inspired her to do something about it, but this almost felt like a whole separate story. Ella asked her grandfather to plant trees to stop their land flooding, this may have encouraged younger children to think about what their influence can be or what they can do, especially with the vivid imagery of the sea turtle and the plastic in the ocean.
It was easy to see how much work and artistry had gone into this production. I think that the hour length was perfect for the very young audience, but personally think that the dialogue could have been edited down.”
Sylvia (12) : “It was good in some parts, but quite boring in others. I liked the animation on the screen and the way they used the props. I would recommend it for children below the age of 10. I liked the way they talked about saving the planet, but they could have made it easier to understand.”
Charli (10) : “I think it was quite boring because I couldn’t really understand it. I think it would be good for kids younger than me. It also encourages people not to throw rubbish everywhere.”