Heartwarmingly family-friendly: The Green Ship by Quentin Blake in London’s Librarian Theatre

Sir Quentin Blake is without doubt Britain’s most famous illustrator – even me growing up in Hamburg knew thanks to Roald Dahl’s BFG his drawing of Queen Elizabeth II before I knew Andy Warhol’s version. I have not come across Blake’s own children stories before though and therefore happily follow the invitation to the Librarian Theatre in Peckham. A touring theatre company playing in libraries and book festival is for sure something I do not want to miss!

The venue is quite a walk away from the Elephant & Castle tube station – Theatre Deli’s The Old Library is located in Burgess Park with a bus stop bringing you back to Central London nearby. It is an empty library with a bar and space for performances instead of bookshelves, and books and prints for decoration (Ladybird books especially). I secretly hope the lamppost sticker I passed on my way here was not referring to this creative space. It read: “Can we have our library back?”

A theatre performance in a library is a brilliant idea

Because the opening night’s show begins on a Wednesday at eight o’clock there are few children around. The clothes of one around reads Tiny Feminist. Seats in the back are reserved for latecomers, which is very family-friendly.

The story of the Green Ship is that of a 10-year-old girl and her 8-year-old brother escaping the boredom of their aunt’s house where they spend their summer holidays. Even though forbidden to cross the garden wall they make friends with an elderly lady and her gardener – to keep the memories of her late husband alive and their shared sailing trips the lady installed years ago a whole ship in her garden. But until the children’s arrival, this has never brought her any joy. Luckily that is changing now: It takes an atlas, a compass, a song or two and a wee bit of imagination and the four are sailing around the world together!

That close to the stage the fourth wall will be broken constantly

I might not represent the play’s main target group but they warm my heart anyway and I practice my understanding of Italian while learning about the first pizza even baked, further about Osiris and hieroglyph yoga, listen to a didgeridoo and fall in love with puppets of polar bears, a seal and of a jellyfish. Even King Neptune makes an appearance.

That is a lot of adventure for an hour in the library. Before I go to bed tonight, I might listen to the shipping forecast; I am already very excited about where I am travelling to once asleep.

Quentin Blake did so much more than just illustrating Roald Dahl – writing his own stories for example

Written by Quentin Blake, directed by Alexander Lass

**** out of 5 stars

The Green Ship toured the country’s libraries in summer 2019. Since summer 2020 Theatre Deli no longer runs the venue.

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