Review: The Lost Thing at the Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House

So you want to hear a story?
Yrots a raeh ot tnaw uoy os?

Last week we were invited along to attend a showing of The Lost Thing at the Royal Opera House. As the show was suitable for children aged 6+ I was allowed to bring a plus one and naturally, I took Little Man with me. We don’t go to the theatre regularly and normally when we do go, it’s usually to our local Greenwich Theatre (which is fantastic for families!) so going to a fancy one like the Royal Opera House, I had to make sure my little monster was going to be on his best behaviour.

We attended the evening performance (7.15PM) but there are days when a matinee performance is showing. We made our way from North Greenwich to Covent Garden easily and just missed the rush hour period as we set off around 5PM. When we arrived at the Royal Opera House, we were ‘greeted’ by the doorman (they just opened the door, no smiles and we were the first to initiate the actual greeting, but hey ho) who showed us the way to the reception desk. Looking around I could see why we were not as warmly welcomed as we would be at our little Greenwich Theatre. The majority of the ROH attendees are mostly older, mostly middle-class and attended without children. A totally different demographic than what we’re used to seeing.

As we headed downstairs to the Linbury Theatre, it was a little less intimidating as we saw more families and young children. Little Man didn’t notice anything but as a parent, I feel like the theatre should be a more welcoming place for those with young children. Perhaps if we had attended a matinee performance it would’ve probably felt less judging as we usually associate evening shows with adult guests rather than young families.

As we were a little early, we decided to head back up and have a look around the small gift shop. We bought a laser-light keyring and a ballet pump keyring for Little Miss. We then headed back downstairs to the cafe outside the Linbury Theatre and had a hot chocolate and a brownie which satisfied our sweet craving.

The Greenwich Mummy Blog: The Lost Thing at Linbury Theatre review
A quick photo before heading inside the Royal Opera House
What is The Lost Thing?

The Lost Thing is a picture book written and illustrated by Shaun Tan. It became one of his bestselling books worldwide and well-recognised in the literature world. The story is about a boy who discovers ‘The Thing’ which doesn’t seem to belong to anything in particular, making it ‘lost’. In the book, The Thing looks very mechanical and is orange-red with greenish metal claws and legs whereas in the theatre production, it’s more organic and living with a green, moss-like body and ever-changing number of legs.

In this theatrical adaptation by Ben Wright and Jules Maxwell (from Candoco Dance Company, a world-leading professional dance company) we are treated to a different kind of storytelling; one that’s filled with not only music but also theatrical singing, opera and dance along the way. ‘Mixing it up’ is definitely a good way of exposing children of this new generation to a variety of performing arts.

The Greenwich Mummy Blog | The Lost Thing at Royal Opera House Review
Joel Brown as The Boy
Review: The Lost Thing at Royal Opera House

Despite the lukewarm review of the show being “too static and slow” from The Guardian online, I much agree with the reviews from Culture Whisper and British Theatre Guide. The performance was pleasantly executed, and provided both children and adults with some true thought-provoking moments. In the programme booklet they gave me, it mentions that The Thing in the performance is not meant to replicate Tan’s illustration but instead, represents something living and organic. The Thing can shape-shift changing from two legs to eight legs, growing larger or smaller depending on its mood.

The Greenwich Mummy Blog | The Lost Thing at Royal Opera House Review
The Boy finds The Thing
The Greenwich Mummy Blog | The Lost Thing at Linbury Theatre review
Shaun Tan’s ‘The Thing’ / Photo Credit: ACMI

“We wanted to take it in a completely different direction and build on the skeleton of the story, which is about celebrating difference, supporting what is lost, and potentially contemplating what we are losing. We decided to shift the nature of The Thing itself to be this odd, biodiverse, many-limbed organism…Ben Wright, interviewed by Lyndsey Winship

I can understand why there may be some disappointment as to why the original story was never followed through completely but then again, adapting a picture book into an opera/theatrical performance is not ordinary neither. The story lines is minimal but I think that makes it easy for children to understand. There’s also surtitles and audio description for those hard of hearing. The diverse cast are fantastic – all extremely talents and a good mix of both disabled and non-disabled dancers, musicians, singers.

I thought the interpretation of The Thing as something organic and living, familiar yet somehow forgotten, was like a metaphorical example of the world we live in today. There is a scene where The Boy almost hands The Thing over to the odds and ends department, but then a janitor appears and strongly advises against it, saying that things left there get permanently forgotten. We then see the janitor being comforted by The Thing and feeling happy that it’s in his presence. It reminded me of how happy and content we once were to just enjoy simple things ie. nature but now we’re constantly fixated on our phones and devices.

The Greenwich Mummy Blog | The Lost Thing at Royal Opera House Review
The Boy and The Thing
The Greenwich Mummy Blog | The Lost Thing at Royal Opera House Review
The Janitor, The Boy and The Thing

“In the book, the denouement is that it finds a place where it belongs. In our version that place is a very saturated, green, mossy jungle…” –Ben Wright, interviewed by Lyndsey Winship

Summary: my thoughts on The Lost Thing

Little Man loved the performance and has asked to go back to watch The Thing come to life again. We will aim to go before the new year. He also lost his thing (a small toy) there at the theatre, which has now become his ‘lost thing’ – now isn’t that a story within a story for you?

I loved the story so much that I ordered the picture book online for Little Man, he instantly recognised the book from the ochre colour scheme and enjoyed reading it however he told me that he much prefers the ending that he saw in the opera adaptation.

The Lost Thing is showing until January 4th 2020 and tickets are between £7.00-£35.00 for a seat, how can you resist a familiar yet story?

More info on The Lost Thing performances and tickets: http://bit.ly/TheLostThing

The Greenwich Mummy Blog | The Lost Thing at Royal Opera House Review
Taking The Thing to the place where it belongs
The Greenwich Mummy Blog | The Lost Thing at Royal Opera House Review
So you want to hear a story? 

You can watch the video of Shaun Tan’s story here:



P I N  T H I S  P O S T

The Lost Thing


[AD] We were given complimentary tickets to attend the performance of The Lost Thing at the Royal Opera House in exchange for this review post. All opinions and content are in my own words and photos that have been used are credited to their sources respectively.

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