Everything Theatre reviews The Anarchist’s Mobile Library – interactive digital adventure, in January 2021, as part of the Living Record Festival.
“The Living Record Festival is stuffed full of digital media shows made specifically for streaming, and no doubt a few hidden gems are buried deep within. What I wasn’t expecting, given how everything about it feels very grown up, was to find a show aimed at young children (they recommend ages 6 – 11). But always eager to check out new things, I dived in headfirst.
What is immediately striking about Tessa Bide’s The Anarchist’s Mobile Library (well, apart from its title of course: try explaining what an anarchist is to a young child!) are the options of audio or BSL. For that alone this show already gets my approval.
This ‘choose your own adventure’-type show is hosted by a cheery animal; part cat, part duck, an interesting mix. She bounces up and down on the screen, introducing us to the library which is intriguingly “a library of the imagination”. Surely this is already hitting the right notes in engaging a younger audience?
The animations are remarkably unsophisticated, but totally sufficient, because this is more about the audio content than the visual. The sound is lovely and full; our host speaks clearly, her tone etched with captivating enthusiasm. It is also delightfully descriptive, inspiring young imaginations to build their own mental pictures. Keeping the onscreen animation simple also reduces the risk that we’ll sit just passively watching. Instead, there is encouragement to get active, with wonderful instructions such as “Stick your bum out and wiggle it” and “what’s the worse face you can make?”; just the sort of thing that will get kids playing along, as you pretend to ski down a mountain, or scare away those aliens who want you as a pet.
As far as choosing your adventure, yes it’s basic, but then why complicate it? With six different places to explore, there is enough to keep your young ones entertained for some time. It’s very much designed so you could easily head back in a second, even a third time and still find new thrills.
So how did I get on? Well, having decided to start with Space, transported into the cockpit of a spaceship, I disgraced myself at the first hurdle, forgetting what planet is after Mars. But there was no ridiculing my error, just our host’s correction before moving on to that pulling of faces to the aliens. Later, I came across sections addressing bullying and selfishness, topics delivered in such a simple and humorous manner that the message should easily filter into the young minds it is aimed at. Most importantly, I did manage to get promoted from trainee to fully-fledged anarchist mobile librarian, a title I may now demand people address me by. (If I’m being honest, I think everyone gets promoted.) With that promotion comes access to a secret section of the production company’s website where there is plenty more to keep the kids busy whilst being home-schooled.
The Anarchist’s Mobile Library is a rather odd show to find running alongside the other offerings from The Living Record Festival; its target audience seems very different. Then again, this is a festival of shows made specifically for digital content, and in that regard it fits well; perfect for that young audience to delve into.”