Babe, The Sheep-Pig

“Are we really going to see a show about a pig that wants to be a sheepdog?” My 4-year-old asks me. Followed by “What does a sheepdog do Mummy?”

Well, if she doesn’t know that then I guess describing a pig trying to herd sheep may not actually sound that strange!

I am, however, at 37, knowledgeable in the role of a sheepdog and a big fan of the original 1995, Dick King-Smith film, Babe. Therefore, I had quite high expectations of this stage adaptation by David Wood.

As we walk into the theatre we are greeted by 4 sheep on stage, (people in fluffy costumes). And they are just, ‘being sheep’, bleating, chewing & interacting. This is such a lovely touch, my daughter thought it was really funny. Great start!

We begin at the sheepdog trials and then swiftly into a flashback on how we arrived there. Which I’m not sure was necessary, it’s a concept that just wouldn’t be understood by young children and the audience was young, mostly under 10.

So, we meet Farmer Hogget who wins a piglet in a ‘guess the weight’ competition at the local fair. Here enters the star of our show, Babe. Played as a puppet, where at first, I wasn’t sure if the puppeteer would be a little distracting but actually, he was quite brilliant, watching the little pig’s head and eyes continually moving and responding to its surroundings meant you never took your eyes off the little fella.

Babe The Sheep Pig

Babe is taken under the wing of the farmer’s loyal sheepdog Fly and once her pups have gone (a heartfelt moment in the show) Babe asks if she can teach him how to be a ‘Sheep-Pig’. Babe settles on the farm befriending all manner of creatures with his polite & friendly approach. And after a heroic effort to stop ‘Sheep Rustlers,’ he saves himself from the Christmas dinner table by proving his usefulness.

The music is a folk-infused, toe-tapping delight, with some instruments played live by this multi-talented cast. Also dramatic in parts, to add atmosphere and weight to certain darker elements of the story.

We found ourselves easily picking up this little gem and singing along:

“Here’s our Babe, let his heart never fail. He’s a clever lad this pig, with a curly kind of tail”.

An extraordinary adventure continues to unfold for our little pink hero as he finds his much less aggressive approach to sheep herding very successful. But how would he fair at the big show that Farmer Hogget is planning to enter him into, against other sheepdogs and sheep he doesn’t know? Fly, as any protective parent might, ensures he has an edge, in the form of a ‘sheep password’.

The set and staging are very clever, transitioning niftily between the scenes, the costumes wonderful (the brief appearance of a wolf is spectacular) and the mixture of dressed-up people and beautiful puppets for the differing roles works really well.

Babe The Sheep Pig

The story is aimed at young children and the message (there’s always a message), addresses prejudice and rudeness, whilst looking to reinforce self-belief and the importance of kindness.

“This will leave your heart warmed and your soul firmly uplifted for the rest of the day. As this little pig beats all the odds to come out on top”.

Find more family shows from Worthing Theatres here >

Father Christmas Needs A Wee!

“Father Christmas needs a wee, he’s been drinking drinks since half past three”.

As many of you will know, you don’t need to say a lot more to a four-year-old to make them chuckle. This had their attention straight off, as did the hip-hop entrance of Father Christmas onto the stage for this adaptation of the popular Nicholas Allan children’s book – Father Christmas Needs A Wee!

Here we meet Elfie, the Chief Elf, she is charged with helping Father Christmas ‘FC’ (her abbreviation) get everything ready to deliver Christmas presents to the world’s children. He’s a little disorganised shall I say and slightly distracted…by everything! So Elfie is there to help him focus on the task-in-hand, it’s a big job and the delivery window is short, it requires expertise on a ‘magical’ level.

After telling FC she doesn’t want a repeat of last year, in the same sort of tone I speak to my 4-year-old about shouting, jumping & sharing, Elfie and FC are set to go. (*Last year he ate and drank every tasty treat left out for him so before they had finished he really really needed a wee!).

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They work hard together all night, singing & dancing their way through each present drop-off. But FC can’t help himself and each time Elfie turns her back he tucks into the treats & drinks, including ‘Mincey P’ mince pies10 cups of tea at No.10. And so inevitably it happens again, before the night is through Father Christmas needs a wee! His efforts to ‘go’ are foiled by small children waking up and guard dogs on the loose.

In fact, he is so distracted by needing a wee (I mean who wouldn’t be?), he actually forgets to leave the presents behind! 

“What with all these drinks in mind, I forgot to leave the presents behind”.

Can he rescue the day by dropping off the presents in time and make it home before having an embarrassing accident?

There’s singing, counting, clapping, cheering and a lot of wiggling. This is the perfect build up to Christmas with its pantomime feel & audience participation. The songs are creative, funny and wonderfully silly, which I applaud. If you can’t be silly at Christmas, when can you be?

My favourite part (yes, at 37 years of age) was this little ditty.

“You’ve got to wiggle. Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, cross your legs and then you’ve got to Jiggle. This is the song that stops you needing a wee”.

I am still singing it a whole 24 hours later and will most likely at some point in the near future get to test out this theory. Let’s hope it actually works!

Find more family shows from Worthing Theatres here >

Tot Rockin’ Beats

What Are You Doing On New Year’s Eve?

To be honest I’ve always hated N.Y.E. When you’re young you ‘have to’ go out but everywhere is twice as expensive, you can’t travel far as transport is twice as expensive and you’re normally too pissed on over-priced cocktails to make it to midnight anyway.

Then when you have kids you ‘have to’ stay in, nobody wants to babysit for you and anyway, your children haven’t mastered the delicate art of laying in in the morning, so you’re normally too tired to make it to midnight.

It all feels too much like hard work for me, with little reward.

So, has Dan Flanagan found the solution to this age-old problem, with the quite brilliantly name ‘Tot Rockin Beats’ event? A big N.Y.E party in the afternoon (4pm – 7pm) that everyone can come to; you, the kids, the babysitter, the next-door-neighbour, the dog and your Gran (*maybe don’t quote me on the dog thing?).

This isn’t the first instalment of this brave adventure, I have been invited to two others in 2016 but unfortunately couldn’t make it to either. You know that feeling when you couldn’t make it to the party and then everyone’s talking about it the next day? Yeah, that.

So I now have my Tot Rockin Beats tickets for N.Y.E and based on the huge success of the last two, I feel like the 16-year-old who finally has a ticket to the party of the year. I should say ‘whoop’ or something like that shouldn’t I? Oh and furiously boast about it on Facebook and SnapChat (though, at 37, I don’t have any idea what that actually is?)

So what does my first N.Y.E out in 7 years have in store for me?

  • At the Worthing Assembly Hall, with 1000 other people – #1in1000
  • Dancing to classic 80’s & 90’s tunes played by real DJ’s (Yes!).
  • Karaoke with Dave Benson Philips. (Legend!).
  • Soft Play. (Apparently it’s not sweaty or smelly, hurray!).
  • Authentic Sicilian food, ice cream, face painting, art and Jive dancing.
  • Welcoming in the New Year at 6pm (no painstaking ordeal to stay awake until Midnight).
  • And a bar……praise the Lord….there is a bar people.

Something for everyone, no?

We’ll be home by 8pm and the kids will be knackered – everyone wins.

I’m most looking forward to dancing ‘like no one’s watching’ with my daughter and getting away with being very silly under the guise of being an ‘active’ parent.

I’m taking my husband & our two children, my sister, my niece and nephew. We are all really excited about going ‘Out-out’ on N.Y.E for the first time in years! And then when I fall asleep at 11.56pm I won’t feel so bad about not welcoming in 2017, as I’ll already have done it, in style, surrounded by (nearly) everyone I love the most in the world.

Come and join us –  Tot Rockin Beats N.Y.E > 

Tickets are £15 for adults, £10 for children, £5.00 for OAP’s with under 3’s free of charge and available from the box office on 01903 206 206 or from Worthingtheatres.co.uk

Alfie White Space Explorer

Round the planets, round the rocket and round the fire. What’s in the rocket ship? So so so off we go! Is what my daughter sings to me when I tell her we are going to see a show about a Space Explorer. I think that means she’s excited?

On arrival we are transported to 1967, the era of the big Space Race. Not important to a 4-year-old, it could have been set in any period of time but to the more advanced in age, this makes sense.

We meet Alfie White, a young boy obsessed with space. Alfie lives with his grandma, in a flat on the 8th floor and is scared of alien invasion. His dad mysteriously disappeared 2 years ago and he’s a bit of a loner. His classmates don’t really share his love for space and all this makes him quite naturally a bit sad. But, he gets by.

What starts with a tall tale gone wrong, turns into a wonderful space-inspired adventure to find Alfie’s dad. And ends up with him actually finding much more; new friendships, a love of singing, dancing & Jazz music and a rekindled relationship with his grandma.

Alfie’s co-pilot for this mission is Meg Harris (the most beautiful girl at school), she ignites a longing in him to find out what happened to his father, so together they set off to look for clues to his whereabouts.

Alfie White Space Explorer

We are whizzed, whirred and rocketed through the story. Spurred on by an old photograph found in Alfie’s grandma’s bedroom, of the mysterious Eddie Dark, who Meg recognises as a Jazz musician. Our pair then land their spaceship at the Jazz club to find important information, they then zoom off (AKA take the bus) to a record shop for more investigation.

The show is incredibly engaging, heartfelt and funny.

The two actors fill the space so well, the dialogue and constant movement are fast-paced and full of energy, holding the attention of my daughter throughout. There really is no time for little minds to wander off, as they do sometimes.

After finding out who his father really is, Alfie is much happier at home and at school. He sings, he dances, he has real friends and is finally comfortable in his own space.

Mission Control: “Thank you for a lovely afternoon”. “Over and out”

Find more family shows from Worthing Theatres here >

Blown Away…

We are a family of penguin lovers, in fact, we just had one to stay with us for the summer holidays! We crafted him out of a sock and various pieces of felt, don’t panic.

It was a pre starting-school project for my 4-year-old, so seeing Blown Away, a show based on Rob Biddulph’s 2015 book about the adventures of Penguin Blue and friends, was a no-brainer. And with the additional promise of acrobatics the pre-show excitement levels are high (and that’s just me).

As we wait for the show to start we hear a noise behind us, like quacking, then sure enough 3 penguins waddle past us onto the stage. They immediately proceed to show off their acrobatic skills to the oohs and wows of the little people (and some big people) watching. I overhear one small boy protest that he too can do that move.

Our 3 friends for this adventure are penguin’s Blue, Flo and Jeff. Blue wants to fly, to see beyond their home and so they fly together (albeit unintentionally), on a kite away from the ice and snow. On the way, they pick up Wilbur the (accordion-playing) seal and a polar bear called Clive, who, rather fortunately, agrees not to eat them but to come along for the ride instead. We continue on with Clive who ends up in the jungle, where he meets a very cheeky monkey, called, well….Monkey. This is a momentous experience for Clive because he is used to being alone and now suddenly he sees the value and enjoyment of having friends.

Blown Away

As we waddle, dive, jump and swing through the story the acrobatics’ get more impressive, a tightrope walk no less and the accordion (did I mention the accordion?) gets chirpier.

The show is an utter delight, all about adventure and imagination, two of most vital ingredients in the ‘happy childhood’ recipe. It showcases strength, agility, humour, puppetry and wonderfully crafted songs.

“Never throw away a chance for an adventure. Imagination keeps your dreams afloat”. Just one of the lovely choruses we are treated to.

The story draws to a close as despite the excitement of new friends and warmer surroundings, Clive is too hot in the jungle and the penguins miss home. A makeshift boat is hastily thrown together for their homeward journey to the tune of “I want to go home, I miss my Mum, I miss my bed, I miss my ted. I miss the snow; at the end of the day you miss what you know”.

Never has a truer word been spoken by a penguin, an (accordion-playing) seal and a polar bear!

How To Be A Superhero

I’m a mini geek with aspirations to advance this status slightly in the future. So part of my homework is learning how to make incredible things happen. This has led me to the Starboard Festival, a small outdoor performing arts festival for children & young people, in Brighton.

My friend and I arrive that the Brighton Open Air Theatre and “WOW”, is the phrase I use on our arrival. What a superb venue, it is beautiful and completely perfect for a sunny Sunday afternoon’s entertainment. Looking out from the top step, you can see all the way to the sea.

We are here to see ‘How To Be A Superhero’.

And I for one am pretty excited about this. Tagging along are two 4-year-olds, so let’s superhero-up this review and call the boy ‘Dangerous Duke‘ and the girl ‘Marvellous Mei’. Fitting for the inevitable stars of this little show.

Dangerous Duke is dressed as a ‘casual’ Batman and Marvellous May as a ‘generic’ Bat/Super Girl cross (Superheros are complicated for girls, ok). I think they are ready. My friend and I, perhaps erroneously, are wearing no superhero attire at all.

How To Be A Superhero

The show starts, much more quietly than I had imagined but we are drawn in by the slightly suspicious-looking man on the stage, as he wanders around quietly, then sits down in his chair to eat raw cabbage, I kid you not!

Our hero ‘The Magician’ has had his superpowers taken away by ‘The Collector’ and we are charged with helping him get them reinstated and rid the world of this evil tyrant. The Magician is afraid and needs our help. We are happy to oblige, and it seems, help him eat raw cabbage.

(WP)Magician

There is no jumping, diving, fighting or shouting. The Magician talks quietly to the children, in a way that is so captivating and to my surprise, he holds all their attention in this big open space.

The show is about belief, imagination and the power of working together. We are treated to a series of superb magic tricks that our little Superheros are able to get up and join in with in our attempt to beat The Collector. We see torn posters resembled, spoons bent and a Houdini-style escape.

We learn that super-strength doesn’t have to mean physical power. Immersed in the show, we really believe we can help save the world using our imagination and collective energy.

In a glass-shattering finale, The Collector (the cabbage), I knew it wasn’t just a healthy snack! Is defeated.

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If you BELIEVE, you can make incredible things happen – The greatest superpower of them all.

Perhaps The Magician’s best trick of all though was getting 20 young children to eat cabbage, now that’s impressive!