One of the areas I studied at University was theatre and I'm a bit partial to something a bit interesting and a bit different when it comes to performance. I love a good musical, don't get me wrong but I'm really passionate about interesting stage design, attitude to audience or something particularly transporting. It makes it quite hard for me to sit still and watch children's theatre as it can often be very (very, very) cheesy.
Last week, a friend invited us to go and see a show put on by the GaGa Theatre Company at our local cinema. When it said 'catchy tunes' I groaned inwardly but was hopeful at seeing the word's 'multi sensory' as this implied an understanding of how to really engage with a very young audience. We weren't disappointed.
We went to see the showing of 'Up and Down', a performance based on the wonderful children's book by Oliver Jeffers. It's a tale of friendship between a little boy and a penguin who dreams of flying. I love the book and was delighted to see it brought to life with the use of actors, projections and carefully thought out props. The music was wonderfully composed by Julian Butler and the Playful Babe sat entranced, body popping throughout.
The performance was as true to the illustrations and spirit of the book as I've ever seen and didn't feel a need to narrate to its' young audience, leaving them the joy of discovering the tale through live action, animations and music. That's a rare find and I was so impressed that the creators understood that discovering the tale for yourself is half the fun of performance and story telling.
Also, the whole thing was hosted to be as convenient as possible: 45 minutes in length, buggy parking and no annoying tat on sale that you inevitably end up buying to avoid temper tantrums. There was even an email sent afterwards of really thoughtful follow up activities and links to download the music for free (which we have and danced to daily).
The best part? My intrepid explorer was enthralled. I didn't have to walk her around or retrieve her from 15 rows back where she'd crawled off to find her own adventure. She pointed and whooped and clucked contentedly throughout. A big thumbs up for us. We'll be attending again!