The 'me, me' generation

24th January 1997 at 00:00
Norma Cohen and Reva Klein watch theatre shows for three to five-year-olds that examine infant predicaments

BABY LOVE Quicksilver Theatre Benthal Infant School, London N16

A battered cardboard box comes into view. "Has anyone had a new baby recently?" Half the audience's hands shoot up. Jigging along to a racy xylophone, the school is ready for Baby Love.

The box magically opens: no human but a green-necked dinosaur testing the waters. During the puppet prologue that plays out Baby Love's drama in miniature, gales of laughter herald this feelgood show for three to five-year-olds. Its subject is the child's maelstrom feelings of displacement occasioned by the arrival of a new sibling.

A pink suitcase with an electronic life of its own shoots on, packed with baby clothes. Harry stuffs them into a baby gro, and tenderly rocks his "baby"; his moment of truth is yet to come. Locked into a halcyon bubble of self-absorbedness, he opens the box, to be greeted by a sister.

There's a Harry-meets-Myra period of bliss as the jelly-limbed baby, bolstered by terry towel-ling, somersaultingly attempts to balance, turning Harry into a piggy back ride.

No longer the subject, merely the object, Harry wants to huddle back into babyhood. Jealousy creeps in. Angrily he collapses a brick tower. Latching on, Myra tears up his painting with innocent delight and upturns her cot, trapping Harry. A duvet-swinging explosion of high spirits ensues.

The drama touches an acute nerve, the audience identifying with both characters. The two faces of Harry are winningly played by Steven Coles, whose dance prowess gloriously invades the real-life adventure. Vicci-Jade Smith plays Myra as an adorably gymnastic infant with a sense of wonder that bubbles up like Babycham.

Baby Love tour Watermans Arts Centre, Middlesex February 1 Lyric, Hammersmith March 15 Polka, Wimbledon April 1-5 Quicksilver Theatre: 0171 241 2942

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