ADVENTURES IN MOOMINLAND | London, Southbank

Adventures in Moominland is a temporary children’s exhibition at the Royal Festival Hall about Finnish author-illustrator, Tove Jansson, and how she created Moominland. Visitors are taken on an immersive, multimedia, fifty-minute guided tour through the the sights, sounds and smells of exquisitely detailed scenes from Moominland, including a campfire; a snowy, moonlit forest; a sauna; and many more. Though featuring Moomin memorabilia across seven decades, borrowed from the Moominvalley museum in Finland, the exhibition is perhaps more storytelling and theatre than museum.

Children will enjoy the adventure of the exhibition, although the “adventures” of the title also refer to the author’s own childhood, Finland’s politics in WWII, queering gender and the power of art. If this all sounds like pretty heavy stuff, you’d be right, and yet at no point does this magical journey feel like a lecture.  So much is told visually, like a Second World War newspaper open at a photo of an atomic blast, placed next to an illustration of a comet falling on Moominland. A few minutes later, we too have to escape from the threat of the comet’s blast, as a bright artist’s studio gives way to a lamplit cave.

Sandi Toksvig introduces each new room in a poetic voiceover (written by children’s author Laura Dockrill), with a beautiful piano-based soundtrack lending different atmospheres. And the entertaining live guide fills in the rest of Tove Jansson’s emotional story, forbidden gay romance, troubled father and all. The level of research is impressive, not least because the tour remains easy enough for a child to understand.

There are many surprises to discover along the way, and even toddlers were thrilled to brush against trees, or put sand and pebbles into a bucket. Despite a good amount of original Moomin artwork and artefacts on display, some visitors may feel not enough is made of this, and others maybe disappointed not to cuddle with a life-size Moomin. However there’s no doubt that visitors of all ages will be transfixed by this magical and emotional adventure.

Plot your own adventure in Moominland 18 Feb – 23 April 2017.

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