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Alby the Penguin Saves the World

by on 8 April 2022

Penguin with Icing

Alby the Penguin Saves the World

by Helen Eastman

Reading Rep at Reading Rep Theatre until 18th April

Review by Nick Swyft

Alby finds that his Antarctic home is melting and is almost drowned when he gets entangled in a plastic bag.  Since this is all to do with the humans making the planet hotter, he makes a decision.  He is going to talk to the humans and tell them to stop.  Ingeniously, he collects more plastic bags from Una the Upcycler to make a hot air balloon to fly to the human seat of power, Reading.  How does he know that Reading is where the humans live?  Because amongst Una’s collection of things to upcycle is a Huntley and Palmer biscuit tin, and Alby’s grandfather told him that Huntley and Palmer were based there.

If you’re wondering what to do with your three to six year-old children of a morning or afternoon, Alby the Penguin Saves the World really takes the biscuit.  Get them to take their grown-ups to Reading Rep’s sparkling new theatre.  This show is both entertaining and educational for them.  Yes, the over sixes too! 

The talented Victoria Jane, whose television credits include The Teletubbies, played Una, delivering the magic through song, dance and ventriloquism, as both the storyteller and as Alby’s puppeteer.  She entranced her audience of children (and their adults) with various songs and activities, keeping them focussed for the whole fifty minute performance.

The play, directed by Helen Eastman, cleverly wove local knowledge, and the Reading football team, with the global issue that Alby was trying to solve.  Sometimes the peddling of a message, however worthy, can be a bit wearing, but the Huntley and Palmer reference provided some fascinating distractions.  Who knew, for instance, that they built a branch line from the main railway station to transport their biscuits?  We can gloss over the fact that this encouraged coal-guzzling steam locomotives, which wouldn’t have helped Alby’s situation.

Helen Eastman also wrote the show.  She is a busy writer: venturing a little further from Reading, some may have seen Father Christmas and the Icicle Bicycle at Oxford Playhouse.

Alby the Penguin Saves the World is part of Reading Rep’s wider programme, Climate Activism in Reading, which aims to engage young people and the community in combatting the global climate crisis.  So all ages can help Alby from his predicament.  School parties are welcome too.

Credit must also go to the police officer in the audience who was co-opted to tell Alby who was in charge.  Being an adult, she wouldn’t know, but it was of course obvious to the children.  It’s the Queen, silly!

Nick Swyft, April 2022

Photography by Harry Elletson

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