Try to explain the appeal of Sylvain Chomet's 2003 feature film Belleville Rendez-vous to a sceptic, and you soon run into trouble. "It's French (very French) and it's animated and it's about an old woman who looks after her grandson when his parents are killed in a car crash and there's a bloodhound and the lad grows into a cycling champion, but he gets kidnapped and there's these old cabaret singers who live on boiled frogs and the mafia running a gambling scam with the kidnapped cyclists in a nightclub and... and... and..." Well - you get the picture.
Or rather you don't, because the film's charm lies in its execution, its stylised imagery and its determinedly focused characters. And so does Fellswoop Theatre's faithful adaptation of the film for the stage (at Greenwich Theatre until 17 March). Combining puppetry, mime, music and some very imaginative representations of cycling, the young ensemble cast tell the tale with all the wit and stunning visual imagination of the film - no wonder M Chomet endorsed the production. The five women and three men are accompanied by two very talented musicians who provide a lazy, jazzy soundtrack and some surprising improvised sound effects.
Having softened some of the film's darker elements, this show is ideal for older children, showing them not just how theatre can tell a story, but how theatre can transform everyday objects into wondrous machines, home interiors and even dogs. A perfect counterpoint to a world of HD televisions and computer graphics that leave no space for imagination in their pixellated verisimilitude. The only disappointment of the evening is that at just 70 minutes, it could easily have been half an hour longer - so I'll just have to look forward to what this company come up with next time.