The book is about a snail that, unlike all of his peers, has an itchy foot and wants to see the world. He finds a ride on the back of a humpback whale and sails along to see all of the amazing places in the world… until speed boats beach the whale. The more he saw, the smaller he felt but, when the whale is helpless, the snail is the one to save him.
When I first heard about the trip, I was curious about how Tall Stories, a company based out of London, England, would tell this story with live actors. Since the trip I have researched and I found on a study guide by the theatre we went to that they had the same question when they first considered this play. What they created, though, was perfection.
The play is narrated by a woman who tells the story of bedtime with her father and their favorite story, The Snail and the Whale. He is a sailor about to leave on another voyage and she has an itchy foot to match the most curious of tiny snails.
I could tell you that it was perfectly written for the young age group I teach and kept them enthralled the entire time. I could talk about the amazing organization that helps soldiers record bedtime stories for their children, Storybook Soldiers, which gave co-director Toby Mitchell the idea for the premise. But, what has kept this play revolving around my mind for the last three days is the fact that, at the very end when the rest of the audience was clapping, I was fighting back tears so my bitties wouldn’t see.
Halfway through the play the little girl gives her father her stuffed snail toy to take with him and tells him that if he misses her, he can squeeze it tight and she’ll be there. At the very end of the play the narrator walks into the set and pulls the snail off the bed to hug it tight, saying that he always told her that if she squeezed it tight he would be there. None of my bitties understood that, and that’s good. I’m glad that they haven’t felt that yet. But, especially only a few days after Mother’s Day, I did feel it.
It has been over ten years now since she died and I still miss her. The simplest things still hit that sore spot and tears come. I still wear the necklace she wore daily and I find myself holding the charms like a talisman that, when squeezed tight enough, can bring her back.