Waiting for Little Sunshine, Little Rainfall to begin at artsdepot yesterday afternoon, I kind of wished I had borrowed a child to bring along. I was probably the only person there without little ones in tow, but I was curious. Billed as a blend of Japanese folklore with traditional music and dance, and inspired by haiku and origami, how could I not check it out?
Little Sunshine, Little Rainfall is a family show by the theatre company A Thousand Cranes, which comprises two performers, Kumiko Mendl and Haruka Kuroda, and director Vicky Ireland MBE. The music and sound effects for this particular show were composed by Julian Butler.
Upon entering the theatre each child was given a piece of “magic origami paper” which they fiddled with excitedly until the lights went down. Disappointingly, the theatre wasn’t even half full, but the families who were there all looked happy and excited, and seemed to enjoy the show. There was a group of Japanese kids who appeared to be having a birthday party, and also a good number of non-Japanese kids and their families. Next to me sat three sweet British girls, who were slightly concerned that they didn’t know how to make origami. The adults with them reassured them that they would be shown what to do. Satisfied with this, the girl on my left confidently turned to me and declared, “Look what we’ve got! Magic paper! And we’re going to make it into origami!”.
Although the show was in English, it was decorated with tiny splashes of Japanese, and had a distinct Japanese flavour. Beginning with the words, “Mukashi, mukashi, aru tokoro ni…” (Long, long ago, in a certain place…) gardeners Little Sunshine and Little Rainfall came onto the stage and presented their magic garden throughout the seasons. Props were simple but very creative, and I hope it inspired the young audience to play more creatively at home. In my mind, it was “proper playing”, which is often forgotten these days as we’re surrounded by so much technology.
The words were simple, and I was delighted to spot Basho’s famous frog making a brief appearance by the pond. As the delightful gardeners took the audience for a walk through the garden and through the seasons, classic symbols of Japan were apparent: cherry blossom in spring, cicadas and watermelon in summer, coloured leaves in autumn, and snowman building in winter.
However, the peace and tranquillity of the garden is soon broken when naughty Storm Fox pays a visit! The effects were so simple, and yet I was thoroughly captivated by the appearance of Storm Fox (played by Mendl), and keen to know how the animals in the garden would fight back to save their home.
Storm Fox meets a variety of animals (all played by Kuroda), including a frog, a snail, a bear, and an adorable snow monkey. Perhaps my favourite animal of all, though, was the turtle, played by both women. The turtle was created using just three arms/hands and a piece of fabric. It’s hard to explain, but it was pure magic.
Finally, as the show reached its conclusion and the animals all become friends with Storm Fox, the children in the audience had the chance to use their magic paper to make origami flowers. A rustling filled the theatre as kids began folding their paper, and they were then asked to hold them up and make them grow.
As the show ended, one of the kids near me, incredibly excited at her efforts, shouted, “look at my oregano!!”. Well, at least she had fun.
Don’t worry if you missed Little Sunshine, Little Rainfall at artsdepot this weekend – there’s another chance to catch the show in Brighton soon. Little Sunshine, Little Rainfall will be at the Brighton Dome on Saturday 30th June. For more information, please visit the Brighton Dome website. And for more information about A Thousand Cranes, please visit: athousandcranes.org.uk.