Reviewed by Kathryn Carr
My daughter may have only just turned three but there’s been a Bing obsession in our house for a number of years. She can tell you the title of any episode with just the briefest of glances at iPlayer’s freeze frame menu. With Bing being her sure-fire winning specialist subject on Mastermind, I couldn’t not take her to see Bing Live – the first ever live show featuring the dungarees wearing bunny.
Bing and his friends are currently touring the UK and we were lucky enough to catch them at Bradford’s beautiful Alhambra Theatre. The staff welcomed us by helpfully pointing us in the direction of booster seats. Having her own ‘throne’ was a novelty in itself for my daughter as well as giving her that little extra height to ensure she could see her favourite characters move around the stage.
In the parenting world, there’s been many a debate as to why the ‘adults’ of the award-winning show are smaller than the youngsters and how, if at all, they are related. Never an issue for my little one who together with Bing has learnt the ways of the world through small everyday occurrences, it was a delight to see her face light up and hear her call out the characters’ names as they took to the stage. The puppets are operated by actors who are somewhat larger than the ‘real’ stars of the show. You’d imagine this could be a tad distracting but it seemed even the adults’ eyes were drawn to the talking animals, leaving their human counterparts intentionally somewhat overlooked. This format clearly works. My three-year-old truly believed that the real-life Bing was there, right before her eyes. And in her own words, it was ‘amazing’.
The best thing about taking kids to theatre shows based on TV series is that the audience is one of mutual understanding. We know children aren’t going to sit in near silence as per traditional theatre etiquette and Bing Live helps challenge such expectations by actively encouraging little ones to shout, sing and move about.
The show is immensely interactive. From Bing using his magic wand to turn the audience into sheep (cue the baa-ing) to big cousin Coco sharing her dance moves and coercing some bum wiggling choreography and energetic jumping out of us all. There was plenty of singing too, with new ditties learnt and an airing of old favourite Twinkle, Twinkle.
Bing regulars, Flop, Suala, Amma and my favourite Pando (who as usual is central to ensuing chaos) are all present and correct. The actors do a wonderful job of imitating the ingrained TV voices. Bing is just as whiny, and Flop remains true to his calming, dulcet tones. The plot is a little looser than the five-minute TV episodes and I did kind of miss having a carefully explained moral come the end of the show. The performance does offer the perfect introduction to theatre for pre-schoolers with Bing and his crew exploring the art of storytelling, pretending, dressing up, singing and dancing. Of course, not everything goes to plan with the show Bing and his friends are putting together but with Flop and Amma on hand to get everything back on track, everyone has a whole heap of fun. ‘Theatre – it’s a Bing thing.’
The show is 75 minutes long including an interval which the audience are encouraged to use as an opportunity to catch the toilet train. My little girl didn’t want to leave the station. She was too concerned about missing Bing’s return to the stage. When the show came to a close she let out a disappointed ‘Awwww’, acknowledging that our time in the theatre had been fun. Bing Live definitely held her attention and caught her little sister’s too. My only niggle is that for this performance most theatres charge children from the age of just six months for a seat. As well as almost losing my baby in the fold up chair, no amount of music and action will fully engage the majority of tinies for a full hour in the confines of a theatre row. My just turned one-year-old did join her big sister in clapping along and bouncing enthusiastically and used her pointing skills to show she recognised Bing from that big screen in our living room. At times, it was also like trying to control an octopus. We all know our own children, and can each make the call as to whether the experience is worth the price of a ticket. You will certainly get money can’t buy grins and giggles from the smallest of your family; you’ll be investing in an opportunity to see them smile, hear them laugh and take part in a show featuring their extended TV family. Just go with the flow. And be prepared to dig a little deeper in your pockets when they spot the merchandise stall.
Produced by Minor Entertainment, the company behind In the Night Garden Live, Bing Live is directed by Will Tuckett, whose production of Wind in the Willows won an Olivier Award in 2014. This latest CBeebies favourite to take to the stage is slick, perfectly pitched at little people and a treat for all the family.
Tickets cost from £16.50 to £18.50 (price is inclusive of booking fees).
Bing Live! is at the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford from 10-11 July 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.bradford-theatres.co.uk or call the box office on 01274 432000.
For Bing Live dates (it’s touring the UK until April 2019) to buy tickets and more information, visit www.bingliveshow.com.
Alhambra Theatre, Morley Street, Bradford, BD7 1AJ | 01274 432000