Jersey Festival of Words: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them
By Andy Sibcy
THERE’S nothing like the energy and intimacy of live performance to remind you that there is life beyond the sofa and rubbish telly. Bodyguard or no Bodyguard, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was one of the most enjoyable hours of light entertainment I’d watched for ages. It might have been part of the Festival of Words’ varied children’s programme, but I had as much fun as the three seven-year-olds who agreed to come with me.
And that’s quite a coup. Larger-then-life children’s entertainers tend to rank somewhere between Young Conservatives and mosquitos when it comes to being irritating. But our host, Fleurble Laffalot, managed to pull off the trick that has made The Simpsons such a hit – finding a blend of caricature, slapstick and sarcasm which delivers laughs on several levels.
The hour-long, one-woman show was billed as a ‘funny, silly’ event at which we would discover some ‘fun facts’ about the Harry Potter books and help recreate some of their key scenes, including the Sorting Ceremony and encounters with mythical beasts such as the Acromantula, Hippogriff and Niffler.
It’s fair to say that we did not know what to expect, and equally true that we left not quite knowing what we had seen.
Within minutes of the show starting, we were lying on our backs on the seats, tongues out, hands and feet in the air, to demonstrate our love of Harry Potter. From this moment on, it was clear that J K Rowling’s Hogwarts still holds children spellbound. Time after time, Fleurble asked questions about the potions, spells and beasts of the books and the children knew the answers.
It was part stand-up, part pantomime, part audience-participation children’s theatre – and always entertaining. The children loved acting out scenes from the books and donning brilliantly ridiculous costumes. Fleurble said that she had tried to order a Muggle-sized Hagrid costume, but had taken delivery of a Hagrid-sized costume for Muggles. Minutes later, two young brothers were dressed in a huge pair of shorts (one in each leg), a massive Hawaiian shirt and strap-on beard.
It all sounds a bit bonkers and it was, but it was also a reassuring reminder of how children love to step into the magical worlds of theatre and books. And of how you’re never too old to enjoy being silly.