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Review: Enitan’s Game – A Warm-Hearted, Immersive Children’s Show by Punchdrunk
Attention to detail … Rachel Oriowo (Enitan) and Julian Smith (Ged) in Enitan’s Game. Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

“I’d give it 10 out of 10,” my son Jamie enthusiastically declares. And just like that, the review seems wrapped. However, having asked a bunch of young children for scores over the years, I can assure you “10 out of 10” is the frequent winner. Yet, the latest offering for children from immersive theatre expert Punchdrunk truly merits this high praise.

For those familiar with Punchdrunk’s productions, their children’s shows carry much of the magic and intricate detail. The setting here is a wonderland of curiosities, representing the treasures that belonged to our protagonist Enitan’s late grandfather. Shelves brim with sepia-tinted knickknacks and ancient artifacts, such as a rotary dial telephone, inviting young visitors to explore and interact. “Look, it’s a compass! A magnifying glass!” they exclaim.

Unlike the more elusive narratives often found in Punchdrunk’s adult shows, the children’s productions have a clear storyline. Enitan is supposed to be preparing a Nine Night celebration in honor of her grandfather. However, she gets sidetracked by an elaborate game created by him, turning into a scavenger hunt complete with cryptic riddles.

We’re enlisted to help, and soon enough, the kids are chasing clues in a game that unfolds in surprising and occasionally unpredictable ways. The adventure appeals to both kids eager to dive in and those who prefer to observe from a distance.

Enitan’s Game subtly explores various themes, from migration stories of Enitan and her grandfather to generational bonds, memory, grief, community, and the anxiety of new experiences. While older children might grasp these themes better (the recommended age range is six to 11), the younger ones are caught up in the excitement of the game and the surprising stage magic. “I loved when the game pieces moved on their own!” Jamie recalls, sharing his highlight of the experience.

The production reveals moments of magic that invite awe, albeit sometimes interrupted by the candid remarks of a keen-eyed kid. While the concluding reveal may not hit as hard as it intends, leaning more on explanation than experience, the show brims with creativity, charm, and warmth. It’s a delightfully imaginative experience, captivating for children and equally endearing for the accompanying adults.

Enitan’s Game is currently running at Punchdrunk Enrichment Stores in London until September 1.

Source: The Guardian