Sunday, 19 June 2011

In The Night Garden Live

The Pinky Ponk Show

Showdome, Woburn Abbey

18 June 2011 (1pm)

A real trip to a surreal world!

The thought of taking a toddler to the theatre is enough to fill anyone with a sense of dread, especially when you are the parent of a child who is only still for any length of time when she's asleep - or watching In The Night Garden on the telly!

Would the live version have the same soporific effect?!

Well, I am delighted to report that V's long-awaited first trip to the theatre was a resounding success, no crying, no running around at 100mph and, thankfully, no demolishing of the set!

This is probably because the it's not just the show that's for children. The entire theatre, which is an inflatable dome, is designed for children. There is a buggy park, a microwave for heating up baby food and loads of baby changing facilities.

The "seats" are rows of steps which are tiered perfectly so that if an excitable toddler wants to stand up they can still see, and there's also lots of room between the rows for children to move about if they need to. This may sound like a nightmare to some but if you're there with kids you'll understand how good this is and you wouldn't really be there without them would you!

The inflatable showdome also looks exciting as you arrive. I thought it looked like a giant white maggot but Mr FB was kinder as he thought it resembled meringue nests. As you walk in there are projections on the ceiling as the Pinky Ponk flies by and you do really feel like you're going INTO the Night Garden.

The show itself is excellent and children see all the characters that they know and love - Iggle Piggle, Upsy Daisy, Makka Pakka, the Tombliboos and the Pontipines which all appear either as costumed characters or human animations. There is also a Ninky Nonk and Pinky Ponk while the Titifers and Hah Hoos appear as projections on the ceiling and back wall.

The perspective that you get on the telly is reproduced really well. For example when Makka Pakka first appears, he (????) is huge, but when he is in a scene with the larger Iggle Piggle, a smaller puppet is used so you really get a sense of each character's size in relation to each other.

It's all very clever and well thought out and intelligently brings to life the world that is so familiar on the telly. There are also very high production values that sadly are sometimes skimped upon in other shows because it's "just for children".

But the most important question to answer is what did a 16-month-old think of it? Well, she loved it! It really warmed my heart to see her little face as it all began - sheer wonderment at the magic of it all. In fact at one point I even found myself fighting back the tears at seeing her so happy. I had wondered if she would be un-nerved by the noise and lights but not at all, she took to it all straight away.

The show is 50 minutes long which is quite a while for a child of her age to sit for but, amazingly for her - and tellingly - she sat really well for well over half of it and it was only in the last 20 minutes that she wanted to get up. Even then, it was just to stand and watch - and dance - so enthralled was she!

There was also some delightful shouting out on her part which was a joy because it showed how engaged she was with the show. There was pointing, waving, clapping, the shouting out of characters names and bidding farewell to each of them as they left the stage. (I'm sure she'll grow out of this though - shouting out "Bye, bye Hamlet" may not go down too well at the National!

And it wasn't just her. I'm afraid that I couldn't really contain myself either. I cheered when the characters came on and sang along with the songs - and this is from someone who won't even clap along to the music at a curtain call of a normal musical. I have no idea what's happened to me, but I'm not complaining!

As I had done a few interviews on the show in the week before, we were lucky enough to join some competition winners on the stage afterwards to meet the cast. This was the icing on the cake as for V it was like meeting a popstar!

She stroked Iggle Piggle and immediately engaged in conversation with Upsy Daisy - touching the character's nose and saying "nose". Upsy Daisy then also touched her nose and nodded - I think that this may have been V's first attempt at an interview! If so, she's a natural!

I had been really looking forward to this trip but at the same time was slightly worried about how it would go. It turned out that choosing this show for her first taste of dramatic art was a very smart move, and I only hope that it's just the start for her and that a lifelong appreciation of the theatre will follow!

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