Royal Spa Centre, Leamington Spa
27 July 2011 (11am)
Justin is something special!
Well, he has to be if he can get me sitting in the middle of a packed theatre full of pre-schoolers at 11.oo in the morning! Not on my own obv!
Four years ago today I was preparing for our wedding tomorrow with not even the slightest inkling of where I'd be sitting four years later! But there I was - with Mr FB and a toddler - at show watching a CBeebies fave! Who'd have thought?!
OK - I admit that I did get a hysterical fit of the giggles when Justin Fletcher burst onto the stage to an upbeat musical number and shouting "Hello Leamington Spa, are you ready to party?!" And I did mumble to Mr FB, "He's not flipping Robbie Williams, is he?!"
But as we settled into a show of songs and jokes, I saw the look on my littl'uns face and got 'with it', throwing myself into (well singing a little bit and clapping my hands) favourites such as If You're Happy and you Know It, The Hokey Cokey and Old MacDonald - my baa-ing sheep was a particular triumph!
I think if you don't have a child under three, the name of Justin Fletcher will mean diddly squat, but if you do, then he's likely to be a bit of a legend.
He is known for his slapstick routines and a wide range of characters in programmes such as Something Special - which was created for youngsters with learning difficulties but loved by all and Gigglebiz - a kind of pre-school Little Britain. He also won the first BAFTA ever given to a presenter of pre-school programmes for Something Special and in 2008 was awarded an MBE for services to children’s television.
He also voices Tweenies characters and Timmy Time and is pretty ubiquitous on CBeebies.
Indeed, my 17-month-old recognised him immediately on the stage and watched transfixed. Within minutes he was amongst the audience, standing on a chair two rows in front of her, singing and clapping as she looked up at him open mouthed, not quite believing that "Mr Tumble" was just feet away.
Justin has been recorded as saying that most children, including his own niece, think Mr Tumble is a separate character but he hasn't fooled my daughter - "Tumble dancing" she pronounced, even though he wasn't dressed as the clown - not much gets passed her and frankly freckles and a clown nose is not a heavy disguise!
She loved the nursery rhymes and the impressions of Gigglebiz faves (the time demands on a kids show wouldn't allow for full costumes and make-up) and seemed particularly entranced by his four backing dancers, dressed brightly and performing with an enthusiasm that only those in kids' shows seem to have!
He also went through all the animals using the Makaton sign language for children with learning difficulties which is used in Something Special and his slapstick humour had all the kids and a lot of the adults too laughing hysterically.
The show is just a presentation of sheer joy and I take my hat of to anyone who can sing and dance - and smile while they're doing it - at that time of the morning!
For those who have commented that I have changed - I haven't - as sitting in a theatre watching a show that is sold out and full of boisterous youngsters is not usually my ideal morning out.
But I thought the show was great and Justin is "something special" in terms of children's entertainment but I would rather it had been performed to just the three of us!
However, to see my little girl amazed by what she was seeing and not at all phased by three-year-olds running up and down the aisles, made it all worthwhile and I will put up with hundreds of screaming kids any time - just for her!
I am very pleased and proud at how well she's taken to live theatre although I think it will be a number of years before she's ready for Shakespeare as the RSC don't tend to look kindly on members of the audience giving a loud running commentary on what's happening on stage!
But bring on panto season - she's ready!!