Thursday, 13 February 2014

Teddy Time 2 - 2 February 14

Louise Groves, Hawthorne Theatre Reviewer

A theatre date with Phoebe

I collected my excited niece Phoebe, clutching her favourite teddy, this morning and off we went to the Hawthorne Theatre at Campus West in Welwyn Garden City. Phoebe is two, and having been to her first pantomime at Christmas seems to have already been bitten by the theatre bug. She had expectations of being able to sing-a-long and join in, like she had done so at the panto, so I hoped she wouldn’t be disappointed. 

Campus West is such an easy venue in terms of location, it’s in the town centre but just every so slightly away from the shops, so parking never seems to be a problem in the large car park. Phoebe was excited to see other little ones clutching teddies walking into the theatre, and we eagerly followed them. After a promise of sweeties, naturally we had to stop off at Humphrey’s Coffee Shop. I got too distracted by the pick ‘n’ mix and filled a regular sized cup, priced at a reasonable £2. Phoebe’s eyes lit up, and I giggled at the thought of the sugar loaded little minx I would later be returning to her mummy. That’s half the fun of bring auntie isn’t it?! I did discover when paying though that they do also sell single packets of sweets such as fruitella’s, maltesers etc, so you can spend less if you avoid the pick ‘n’ mix and get home without your children bouncing off the walls!

Stopping to pick up a booster seat for Pheebs on the way into the theatre we were ready to get settled into our seats, and naturally tuck into those sweets! The curtains were up, and the stage was set up like a child’s bedroom. Bright colours & plenty of teddies captured Phoebe’s attention before the show started. Lights down, and it’s show time! 

Lily our storyteller for the next 50 minutes, was dressed in her PJ’s and was ready for bed, but not before she told her teddies a story or two. With the help of the children in the audience, and a little magic, she put her voice into the magic storybook, and was able to act out the stories. All the little ones in the theatre (and most of the big people – me included!) joined in with the abracadabra’s, the waving of teddy bears in the air, and the magic spell casting. I was amazed at how well little Phoebe picked up the words and copied, at two she is just too smart, she loved it. 

Using simple costumes, puppets, and a guy who looked less than enthused to be part of the show, Lily acted out the story of Little Red Riding Hood, complete with a rapping wolf.
Story number two was The Ugly Duckling. Lots more cute puppets were used to tell the story, as well as Lily playing mummy duck. Mummy Duck sang a song to her eggs asking when they were going to hatch, and to be honest I though it was too old for the audience, baring in mind the show is aimed at 4-7 year olds. Ok, so Pheebs I know is only two, but I was looking around and other children were growing restless, they were not engaged with songs that they couldn’t participate in, or didn’t know. Asking the eggs if they weren’t hatching because of something she might have eaten, is not really something little ones would have any understanding of, and it seemed like this, and the rapping wolf from Little Red Riding Hood were added for the parents. Maybe they were but I would be more happy if my little one was excited and engaged in the show, rather than have a moment in it for me, whilst they lost interest. Fortunately singing Old MacDonald drew the children’s attention again, and everyone joined in, especially with the ‘Quack Quacks’. 

The children seemed to love all the audience participation throughout the show. At just 50 minutes long it kept them entertained and there were only odd moments of restlessness. All in all it was a cute show, and a nice way to spend an hour with Phoebe. She loved it, and asked if we could go again tomorrow. It’s wonderful to watch the excitement on her face when she joins in with the actions and sings along. So yes Miss Phoebe, if it was on again tomorrow I’d take you again.

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