Michael Morpurgo’s Kensuke’s Kingdom

Freshly adapted from the original 1999 novel of the same name, Stuart Paterson helps bring Michael Morpurgo’s 1999 novel to a new generation

Review by Dominic Corr | 08 Aug 2018
  • Michael Morpurgo’s Kensuke’s Kingdom 2

Fleeing the mundane world of the nine to five doldrums, Michael’s family decide to take a chance – a chance to see the world and broaden their prospects on the open seas. A tale of determination, pain and acceptance, Michael finds himself knocked overboard by a wave, and washed ashore with his faithful dog Stella (Artois) on a lonely island with only one other inhabitant: a Japanese naval veteran called Kensuke, who was marooned there years ago and is determined never to return to the war-filled world he escaped.

Puppetry, one of the most ancient arts of storytelling, seems to be growing in popularity. It's a welcome trend, especially when it's designed, as it is here, by Adam Small and Kiera Quigley. While never quite giving the likes of Handspring any need to fret, the constructs of Kensuke, Stella and the island's orangutans are exquisite. 

Rough doesn’t begin to describe some of the transitions within the production. For each seamless one, there are several that are poorly-executed. With so much forethought clearly present with the puppetry and writing, it seems that the direction has suffered slightly – tremendously creative aspects let down by a few awkward decisions which could be easily avoided.

By the climax, no soul over the age of 30 (safe guess) has a dry eye, much to the children’s bewilderment. Inanimate objects, none more so than Kensuke himself, are invigorated with such energy and passion they communicate to the adult audience on a surprisingly high level, given that age usually comes at the sacrifice of illusion.

Intended for pre-teens, the beneficiaries of Kensuke’s Kingdom are arguably the previous generations in the audience. The nuances of the text are not entirely lost, yet a different level of subtext can be found for older viewers. It would require a polish, not much else, to turn Michael Morpurgo’s Kensuke’s Kingdom from an enjoyable show to an adapted triumph.

Michael Morpurgo’s Kensuke’s Kingdom, Pleasance Courtyard (Pleasance Two), 2-26 Aug (not 13), 12.30pm, £10-£9

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