Taking my shoes off, walking down the garden steps and entering the Slime garden made me wish that I could shrink back down to my five year old self. The Herd have created a vibrant and inviting playground-set that encourages the touching and feeling of the various spongy, slimy and crunchy materials around you. Slime targets audiences aged 2-5, an intended age bracket that is rarely catered for and one that I myself have little knowledge about. Fortunately for my 25 year old self and the younger audience around me, our time in the Slime garden was consistently entertaining from the moment we were invited in.
Slug loves slime. Caterpillar does not. But very soon they find some common ground. Their love for leaf. ‘Slime’ tells a heartwarming tale about friendship and teamwork using only a handful of words. With its young audience in mind, the bulk of the storytelling is conveyed by impressive physical performances from Emily Bairstow and Finlay Mcguigan. Under Ruby Thompson’s precise direction, the pair are in complete control of the story, the laughter and, often, the audience’s emotions. The duo compliment each other well and Sam Caseley’s gentle narrative offers subtle reminders to accept others for the way that they are and to embrace your own uniqueness. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that I will never look at a slug the same way again.
Every aspect of the production is treated with due love and care. The performance is supported by a lively and bouncy soundtrack that neatly underscores and occasionally accents the action. Jason Addison adds some simple but effective touches of lighting, memorably a series of purple camera flashes that fill the garden with a new and exciting colour. But in many ways the star of the show is the garden itself, designed by Ruta Irbite. Constructed using devilishly simple techniques, it completely transforms the library spaces it inhabits and invites those within into the warm and colourful world of the characters we meet.
I often wondered exactly who the audience were throughout the production. We were inhabiting the garden but we definitely were not humans, as they make their towering presence known as the show progresses. But we were also not insects like the characters in front of us. More of an understanding of our relationship to Slug and Caterpillar might have helped facilitate more of the moments in which the audience were able to get involved. Sharing popcorn with Caterpillar was a tasty treat and in these interactive moments the production, and the young audience, really came alive. There’s no doubt that simplicity is key for younger audiences, but the fantastical garden set felt like the right place to get more involved with the story.
Slime succeeds in telling a joyous and heartfelt tale about friendship through two simple but endearing characters. It offers a beautifully tender and well rounded experience for young audiences, whilst offering a story heartwarming enough to evoke laughs and no doubt the occasional tear from the adults. I hope that we will see the Slime garden popping up again after this run ends and I highly recommend a visit, whatever your age.