David Walliams: The First Hippo on the Moon

There is definitely no shortage of children’s productions at the festival this August, ranging from operas for babies to kids improv and storybook adaptations to clowning and circus.  David Walliams book has been brought to the stage by Les Petits Theatre following their success with Captain Flinn’s and the Pirate Dinosaur last year and this one is also, highly absorbing and brilliantly good fun. 

Sheila wants to be the first hippo on the moon and is determined to do whatever it takes to get there. Joined by some amazing puppet animals to help her out, this show see’s Sheila shimmy herself in to a rocket, and collect rocket fuel from the audience to help her reach the moon before her rival in the ultimate space race. With a special guest appearance from Donald Trunk to speed up proceedings, this show has something for the young at heart as well as the young themselves.

With brilliantly catchy tunes and clap along moments, this Les Petits production is entertaining enough for its target audience, although could do with being a little tighter and shorter, especially as thy have landed the lunchtime spot at the Pleasance. This hipponaut’s adventures are a true reflection of the picture book and the songs, set design and puppetry really bring the text to life.

The first hippo on the moon | Pleasance Courtyard

The tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-duck

There’s something lovely and relaxing about taking an hour out of the hustle and bustle of the festival to sit in a beautiful circus tent in the cenre of the Meadows whilst an orchestra masterfully plays its way through a children’s classic. The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck has been brought to the Underbelly Circus Hub by Children’s Classic Concerts this summer and the tent was full of families excitedly scribbling on activity sheets and looking forward to the show.

The Beatrix Potter books are often a staple in a family home, and as Michelle Todd arrives to the stage in Potter style dress, the stories begin and Todd sings and narrates her way through with the accompaniment of an on stage mini orchestra.  As Jemima Puddle-duck tries to find a spot to lay her eggs away from the farmer, and Peter Rabbit loses yet another blue jacket and shoes, the stories came audibly to life as all members of the family fell in to the Beatrix Potter world.

The music itself is beautiful but there were several restless moments and something visual to entertain the younger members of the audience could be of benefit here.  However, the score soars as danger approaches from the fox or Mr McGregor, and the stories are wonderfully told via classical music. There is no doubt that Todd’s voice is a brilliant addition to the instrumental backing. 

Whilst this performance lacked visual aids and interaction with the audience, CCC have created a brilliant introduction to classical music for children and the orchestra beautiful bob along between duck footprints and the sound of the nasty Mr McGregor approaching.

The Tales of Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-duck | Underbelly Circus Hub

The Princess and the Pea

Chandeliers hung from the ceiling and pots and pans scattered the floor, as audience members filled up the studio at the Sherman for this years festive offering for 3-6 year olds – The Princess and the Pea.  A joint production from Theatr Iolo and Sherman Cymru, the three cast members were instantly engaged with the little ones brave enough to sit on the mats at the front and the music allowed both parents and children to relax around the stage area.

The Hans-Christian Anderson fairy-tale soon takes over the studio space, all be-it at a slow pace to begin with – although this didn’t seem to disinterest the younger audience members in the slightest.  The Prince is only interested in finding a Princess to marry, much to the Queen’s dismay and the two meet various potential suitors in order to make him happy.  As the rain falls on the old castle roof, the repetitive raindrops created mini musical interludes and the Sherman roof could well have been actually leaking!

The real sparkle comes when the unconventional Princess arrives, and as she chases, and plays, and makes the Prince laugh, the Queen decides to put her to the test to see if she actually is a real Princess.  Ceri Elen is brilliant as she takes over the space and the clever lighting design really emphasises the castle feel and changes in the weather.

A tale full of mis-used mash potato, a mattress or 20 and a lot of pans full of rain, the performance was enchanting for the younger audience members, although I felt it was missing a certain chaos or noisy interaction.  The Sherman studio space is full of magic and this gentle fairy-tale is a great treat for young families this Christmas.

Nadolig Llawen! The Princess and the Pea is on until the 2nd January 2016. More information and show times can be seen here.

 

There once was an Ugly Duckling…

Taking over the Sherman theatre’s studio space this Christmas, is the gorgeous tale of The Ugly Duckling brought to audiences age 3 – 6 courtesy of Sherman Cymru and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru.

The story of a young duckling who doesn’t fit in in his nest and goes on a search to find himself, and his friends, begins with a warm Croeso from the three actors, instantly engaging the attention of even the grizzliest toddler. The other ducklings in his nest take great joy in making sure he knows he is different, as they can both quack and he can only honk!

As the duckling travels to find himself and some real friends, he comes across a hilarious hen who shows us how easy it is to lay an egg, a cat who doesn’t understand why everyone can not pounce and meow like him and a short sighted hunting dog who thankfully has no interest in making the duckling his dinner. The traditional story conveys all of the key themes that any good festive tale should, brilliant directed by Sara Lloyd and performed with total commitment and stunning energy.
The leaves swirl through the sky, snow falls and the stars shine brightly, as the seasons come and go illuminating the simple yet well used set, enchanting audience members young and young at heart with a stunning lighting design. Incorporating musical instruments and song in to the tale, the musical score is charming and full of joy – evoking cries of ‘wow it’s a harp!’ from the musicians of tomorrow in the front row!

A beautiful narrative brought to life in an incredible fashion full of delight, friendship and music, one not to miss this Christmas, to escape your standard Christmas carols and Santa Claus’.

Bore da Gwyn!

And what a beautiful morning performance it was! Cwmni Fran Wen’s Gwyn took over the Urdd hall this morning at the Wales Millennium Centre, welcomed by an audience full of little ones, their parents and the few young at heart with no child as an excuse! Having first seen the production performed in English by Scottish company Catherine Wheels two years ago at the Sherman, I was incredibly excited to see the Welsh language adaptation, especially as a Welsh learner!

Gwyn revolves around two friends in their world full of white: white clothes, white food and drink, white eggs which fall from the sky. They spend their days cleaning their home and looking after each other, waiting for eggs to fall. So when nuggets of colour start to appear for the very first time… A pink bobble, blue milk… the two panic and try to hide the new objects, before gradually embracing the glowing colours and treasuring the variety in their world. The production is not just an introduction to primary colours for the little ones, but also shows how to embrace and accept change, a challenge even for grown-ups sometimes!

Set against a truly gorgeous backdrop of little houses on stilts and a disco ball, the white world is cleverly designed with a few tricks up it’s sleeve as the pinks, the blues and the yellows begin to appear. Greeted by oohs and aahs from the young and the old, the explosion of colour and clever lighting created a really lovely piece of theatre.

A beautiful production from start to finish, a true reminder of how magic children’s theatre can be! Full of giggles, bright colours and enchantment: Llongyfarchiadau a diolch yn fawr to Cwmni Fran Wen!

Check out the Cwmni Fran Wen website for further dates as Gwyn continues it’s tour around Wales.

Mad, Bad and Dangerous: Everyman are back!

Wales’ biggest open-air theatre festival is back again this year and is heading to Sophia Gardens, Cardiff next month from 4th July – 2nd August.  The Everyman Open Air Theatre Festival has a program full of delicious entertainment for 2014, ready to entertain thousands of audience members, bigger and bolder than ever before.

Take a trip to the barbers with the witty and bloody musical, Sweeney Todd (4-12 July) or join Blackadder and Baldrick in three episodes from Blackadder II (15-21 July).  Watch Kate and Petruchio’s relationship from a new perspective in Shakespeare’s outrageous romantic-comedy, The Taming of the Shrew (25 July-2 August) or swim deep under the sea with Ariel and friends in Disney’s The Little Mermaid (26 July-2 August).  All full of magic, drama and a slice of madness, it’s set to be a real highlight of the summer theatre season for audiences young and old.

All seating for the festival is reserved and under cover, so come rain or shine, the show must go on, as we all know the unpredictable nature of a British summer!  Situated just outside the heart of the city centre, the festival is easily accessible by all modes of transport and with the brilliant team of Everyman volunteers on hand to help, there will definitely be a crew of friendly faces waiting for you!

A whole new world lies just off the main road and you’re invited to be a part of it: Sure to be full of intrigue, excitement and brilliant theatre, the Everyman Open Air Festival is one not to be missed this summer!

Reviews to follow very soon. For more information and to book tickets online, go to the Everyman website or alternatively ring the box office on 03336 663366 for ticket prices from just £7.  Follow @everymanCDF and @everymanfest for more frequent updates or like Everyman Festival on Facebook.

More than just a circus show

That’s right, NoFit State are back in their hometown for the next few weeks and there was a great buzz around the big top circus tent, situated just steps away from the hustle of Cardiff city centre. Following it’s success around the world from Edinburgh to Australia, Bianco is back full of energy and skill to wow it’s audiences once again.

And wow it did. Easing the audience in gradually, the performers wove their way through the crowd and slowly began to pull the focus to the centre of the big top where two hours of top energy, immersive performances captured the audience members attention and imagination. Swinging, spinning and leaping through the air, the strength and the agility of the performers was instantly noticeable as they made every movement look effortless, even when suspended from a rope or holding on to a bar only by their feet. Each piece oozed excitement and thrill, yet each created an individual mood whether it be a hint at romance, a slice of cheekiness or a little bit of danger.

Combined with an incredible live soundtrack from the in-house band, the production had me amazed from start to finish. The finale was particularly stunning, as the big top turned in to a snow globe, snowflakes fell from the sky and the trapeze artist swung elegantly through the air, leaving the audience gasping in amazement and partially covered in snow/foam!

Full of magic and excitement, NoFit State and their beyond talented group of performers have the audience entranced by each leap, step and spin. A crazy concoction of beauty, chaos and amazing skill: Bianco left me in complete awe and wanting to watch again and again!

Bianco plays in Cardiff until the 7th June and then continues it’s tour with venues including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. For full tour dates and more information see the NoFit State website.