Vixen (Press Performance), Travelling Light Theatre

Bristol’s Travelling Light Theatre Company have been at the forefront of creating theatre that sparks the imagination of children and young people since 1984 – I have fond memories of their shows and workshops from my early days at secondary school. Given that history then, how lovely it was to be invited back to my local theatre recently to catch their latest show currently on tour: Vixen.

An original story by Matt Grinter, Vixen is the story of 11 year old Saffi, who is changing into a fox. Powerful in a way she’s never felt before, Saffi wants to run away and join her newfound family, but what would that mean for the family she’d leave behind – her Dad, and the Raincoat Man?

Photo Credit: Camilla Adams

There’s a lovely note from Matt in the programme where he says: “with Vixen we wanted to tell a story that doesn’t shy away from the realities of being smaller, of being big enough to worry but not big enough that someone will listen.”

That I think for me was one of the major strengths of this piece – I can so easily remember feeling some of the things that Saffi feels, what’s it’s like to be 11, and though it deals with some pretty weighty themes at times: bereavement, estrangement, immigration to name a few, what’s remarkable is the undeniable warmth, energy and humour at the core, and how accessible they’ve made the ideas, especially for the intended young audience. I was overjoyed to see them rapt throughout and talking so animatedly with their grown ups at show end.

There’s also a wonderful sense of playfulness and imagination in the design by Katie Sykes: the sparce set encompasses a vivid orange climbing frame and a handful of other props: microphones become dog leads, coats represent people and Saffi’s transformation, and so on, a lesson in how set design doesn’t have to be busy to be effective. The lighting by Matt Graham and Alex Vann’s music work hand in hand to evoke mood and suspense throught, and serve the central performance beautifully.

Photo credit: Camilla Adams

Speaking of, Alice Lamb delivers a sparky, nuanced performance as Saffi, holding us in the palm of her hands for the entire 45 minutes with boundless energy and quiet strength by turns. Lamb also gives us “Dad” and the other members of Saffi’s community with subtle changes in her body language, and some clever sound design thrown in.

Full to the brim with warmth, creativity and heart, it’s wonderful to see Travelling Light do what they do best with Vixen – allowing youngsters and us young at heart to be inspired by the power of theatre, and long may that mission reign!

Vixen is on tour now

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