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

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How to be a Kid

Paines Plough are back with the beloved roundabout and a stellar line up once again at the festival this year, and their early morning kids offering is a total gem. How to be a Kid is just what any one needs first thing, young or young at heart, and the messages of not growing up too quickly resonate with a lot of the audience. 

Molly does all the cooking and cleaning, and looking after of younger brother when their Nan’s passes away and their Mum is struggling to cope. But Molly is only 12, and with everyone telling her different things about whether she needs to grow up or that she’s just a kid, one day it is all just too much. This show takes us on a break out adventure to find Molly’s inner kid once more, and with some help from Vera and a well timed promo voucher.

Although the story itself could do with a little more background into the family set up, the performances and messages are insightful and heart warming to see, as the bus zooms around the space, they dive in to the pool out of hours and Joe’s diplodocus moves hijack Molly’s cool levels on the walk home making two brothers down the front roar with laughter. With no props or set, the lighting design is crucial and works brilliantly to help us set the scene, from a dark house in the middle of the day to the bright lights of the Golden Arches. 

With chocolate cake, happy meals and a large dose of Taylor Swift, How to be a Kid is a wonderful piece on upside down family life, with a whole lot of heart and the roundabout stage suits the three hander brilliantly. 
How to be a Kid | Paines Plough Roundabout @ Summerhall

A little bit of Dahl magic

Everyone knows the stories of Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Little Pigs… But do you know the re-imagined Roald Dahl versions where pistols and sass outweigh tradition, and not all is as it first appears? Kicking their tour off at Newport’s the Riverfront last night, Ballet Cymru have brought Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes to the stage as part of the centenary celebrations this year with a simply, mischievous piece of dance.

Despite a few opening night hiccups and a slow start, the stories were brought to life for a busy auditorium with humour and beautiful imagery as the performers took on various roles alongside the poetic narrative.  With minimal set and props, it’s down to the movement and strong characters to pull off the story and our heroin in red is particularly enchanting to watch as she leaps and soars across the bare stage.   As Little Red proves herself to be slightly less innocent than you may have previously imagined, and the house building materials chosen by the three little pigs result in tragic consequences, Dahl’s witty rhymes and wonderful imagination are injected carefully but firmly in to the choreography.

The movement of the ensemble in sync was wonderful to watch and the combination of the fun writing and the upbeat yet charming musical score was a winning formula.  As a first time ballet experience for many young audience members: Ballet Cymru have created a brilliant piece with a distinct hint of Dahl magic.

On tour across Wales and the rest of the UK for the rest of the year, click here for further tour dates and follow @balletcymru on twitter for more information.

Jem and Ella

Remember those days when you used to dance around at family parties, stood on your Dad’s feet as you wannabe-waltzed across the floor? (Before you were too cool to be stood next to him, of course!) Run Ragged Dance companies new offering of Jem and Ella is a wonderfully nostalgic and endearing piece as the dance worlds and styles of Father and Daughter collide. Taking over the Sherman’s studio space this weekend to end their Welsh tour, the duo are full of energy and spark in this short but sweet performance. 

Ella is an incredibly talented ballet dancer, and as she is about to be come a teen, she is struggling with her routine of Netflix, food of course and ballet lessons. Meanwhile, Jem who is just turning the dreaded 50, is a professional contemporary dancer, and typically, like any Dad, doesn’t like to admit when he is wrong! The trust and spark between the two is instantly apparent as their relationship is documented through a series of spoken word, movement, voice overs and home video projections.

The central Dance Rug, the space in any family home which turns into a shake it out zone, was beautifully lit and the soundtrack lifted the performance at just the right times throughout the hour. However, this piece really didn’t need any flashy production elements as it is the relationship between the duo and their skills and flexibility to bounce off each other which is the most interesting to watch. 

The younger audience members around me seemed genuinely disappointed that it wasn’t the interval at the end and many parents will have been asked for dance lessons in the car journey home. A warm and charming production, which made me want to dig out my old dance shoes a little or be small enough to stand on my Dad’s feet without breaking bones! A lovely end to the week and a pair to look out for. 

Ladies and gentlemen, cowgirls and cowboys…!

A family show with a difference, this Wild West treat from West Yorkshire Playhouse, the Egg, MAC Belfast and Theatr Iolo showcased something for everyone. On the Welsh leg of its tour, Little Sure Shot took over the Richard Burton Theatre this week at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

The story of Annie Oakley is one not many people are familiar with, but this brilliant story telling takes us on the journey with frightened and alone young Annie who has lost her father, to the standing ovations for the shooting star of the show. The Moses family are experiencing some bad times, and it is down to Annie’s shooting talent and big dreams which take her around the country and show the world that girls have just as much hard work and oomph behind them as any boy! Cleverly switching tone between scenes, the cast aptly move between light hearted clowning, country dance moves and touching solo moments highlighted by a stunning lighting design.

Verity Clark is brilliant as the title role and the ensemble of actor-musicians work seamlessly to entwine dancing, comic timing and song amongst the well written script. Set against a beautiful and cleverly designed stage and combined with a brilliant soundtrack from Lucy Rivers, this musical retelling is enchanting, good fun and full of the soul of the Wild West. The voices of the ensemble are enough to brighten any day and the

A brilliant tale full of determination, heart and spirit: Little Sure Shot is a heart warming and gutsy performance which has something for cowboys and cowgirls of any age! One to watch out for, for definite!

A night in Llanllai is never dull

No family event ever goes without a hitch, especially not where The Harri-Parri’s are concerned! And of course, they were never going to let the lovely Anni get married without putting on a do: they always put on a wonderful spread and of course, the whole village is invited! The Harri-Parri’s: The Big Day see’s the return of some of our favourites from The Leaving Do as well as a few new faces too. 

Anni is bringing her husband-to-be home to Llanllai to meet the family for the first time, praying that all will run smoothly… Greeted by ex-boyfriends, a traditional welsh sing song and pineapple fluff: it soon becomes clear that beanie wearing, Manchester born and bred, fiancé Ben might be in for a little bit of a shock! 

With wedding preparations in full swing in a village where everyone knows your name, it’s time for full introductions and to fine tune the smaller details for the upcoming big day! The bride and groom are flying on the wings of curry, and paired with a clever and witty script, each character is given full opportunity to shine and connect with their guests, even the ones which they’d rather not have turned up!

Full to the brim with some classic dance moves, brilliant songs and belly laughs, you would be as bonkers as they are to miss out on this show! A hilarious and incredibly, heart warming creation from Mai oh Mai productions

Next stop is Pontardawe! Keep an eye on twitter: @TheHarri_Parris for your invite to visit the Harri Parri’s household!

Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage

As the first person to openly come out in the sporting world, Gareth Thomas’ story is no secret to to the people of Wales and the rest of the rugby world.  A collaboration between National Theatre Wales and Out of Joint, Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage tells two stories in parallel, focusing around Thomas’ life and the events surrounding his decision to come out as gay to his family, his team mates and his fans. 

Set in a locker room, which doubles as a hospital, a living room and a bar, the cast of six each takes on the role of Alfie himself through a simple flick of the rugby ball and tells of the ups and downs of his career: from his rise up the ranks to his separation from his wife.  Each character comes in to their own, with a brilliantly endearing and funny relationship showcased between the parents and excellent comic timing especially from Lauren Roberts.  Alongside the rise to rugby stardom, we are introduced to two young teens growing up back in Thomas’ home in Bridgend, facing tough events in their day to day lives.  Despite highlighting their deeply personal yet contrasting situations, it is initially tricky to see the link in the stories but the element of revolving characters allows us to gain a window sil viewing space as the truth unfolds. 

A crowd pleaser which evoked a standing ovation lead by Gareth Thomas himself on press night, the production was warming yet humorous throughout. Despite the possibly unnecessary rugby clichés and choreography, the cast bounced off each other well to shed a new light on Alfie’s story in an enjoyable and touching production. 

Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage plays at the Sherman until the end of this week before embarking on tour around Wales and England. For more details and to book tickets, Click here