This is a show about a giant panda whose name is Xiongmao, which it says here is pronounced ‘Sha-mow’. I bet you didn’t know pandas could speak Chinese, did you, children? She lives in the jungle near the Min mountains in China. And Xiongmao has lost her house. Did she perhaps eat it? It was made of bamboo after all, and what do pandas eat? That’s right. So she has become a wandering migrant looking for a new home, and isn’t always finding herself welcomed (a situation which may ring a few bells with grownups who read the news nowadays). This amiable allegory is enlivened by the lovely big hand-held puppets that represent the creatures she encounters on the way: a bunch of lively chattering monkeys; an amiable slithery snake with echolalia (that’s a posh name for repeating everything that’s said to you, children); a rather domineering porcupine; some suspicious red pandas (yes, even between pandas there’s prejudice); and an excitable little pangolin with his pangolin mum. At the heart of it, though, is Becca Holmes’ nicely-observed, witty, and slyly self-aware performance as the endearingly sparky Xiongmao. An enjoyable romp for all the family, and, children, you get to play with the puppets after the show! What could be better?
John Christopher Wood