Reviewed by Kathryn Karr
With a two-year-old daughter who has recently started ballet class and who doesn’t miss an opportunity to show everyone and anyone her new moves, we thought she may appreciate a trip to the theatre to see ‘Dogs don’t do Ballet’; especially given the fact she loves a four-legged friend as much as she loves twisting and twirling on her own two feet.
Adapted from the best-selling book by Anna Kemp, ‘Dogs don’t do Ballet’ tells the story of Biff, a dog who thinks he’s a ballerina. This is a pooch who’d rather walk on his tiptoes than walk in the woods. The tale reveals that contrary to popular belief (cue: ‘dogs don’t do ballet’ chant; repeated roughly every four minutes) this dog really can dance and proves it when he gets the opportunity to strut his stuff at the Royal Ballet. The repetition of the show’s title really served in engaging its audience who were, right from the off, backing Biff as a ballet star. Its frequent use combined with a finale that transformed a ‘don’t’ into a ‘do’ also helped convey the message that we can all achieve what others may deem impossible. Perhaps a little too deep a translation for its intended audience but you (and they) get the idea. Dogs can do ballet!
‘Dogs don’t do Ballet’ at Huddersfield’s Lawrence Batley Theatre was brought to life by Little Blue Monster Productions, a professional theatre company established with the simple aim of creating truly magical theatrical experiences for children and families. The three performers and the whole production team did a fantastic job of creating a seamless 50-minute show that incorporated music, dance, puppetry and audience participation. I was amazed that they managed to hold my daughter’s attention for the duration, with only one fidgety moment during a ballad close to the end, which swiftly ended when the music reverted back to a more upbeat number. Given she’s two, and the target audience is 3-11 year olds, they deserve a pat on the back for catching and holding the attention of our little one, known for her short attention span.
I’d imagined the show’s lead would be ‘puppet Biff’ but the show actually incorporated a significant amount of acting work from its stars, with lots of woofing and scratching from a human canine creature. I’d have liked to see more puppetry but this wasn’t something that the kids in the audience seemed to have considered; a man barking and bouncing around the stage in a dog costume it seemed, was more than good enough for them. In a similar vein, the childlike (whiney) voice of Biff’s young owner did grate on me (though I don’t think it registered with those closer to the age being portrayed).
The set was basic but aided by colourful, somewhat flamboyant character costumes, it did the job. The larger than life rather than technical dance moves held the gaze of the young audience and the songs and their straightforward storytelling lyrics really worked for them too. Getting the audience up on their feet for some easy to master moves and having them sing along to ‘happy birthday’ meant everyone felt included in the action.
Recruiting Dads onto the stage to take part in a plié and pirouette bit-part, entertained not only the Dads’ own, but everyone’s children.
Biff is loveable and charming, as is the tale. The production left a smile on everyone’s faces; grins which were widened by a free meet and greet with the stars of the show after the performance. It’s slicker than a pantomime but still a whole lot of fun. Dogs don’t do Ballet; oh yes they do!
The Lawrence Batley Theatre is fantastic for families and regularly hosts performances perfect for young audiences, they even offer a special discount whereby if you book three of their family shows, you receive a 10% discount; book four and that’s upped to 15%. The staff are always on hand to help everyone to their seats and there’s plenty of booster seats dished out without so much as a request. They certainly encourage parents to introduce their youngsters to theatre and cater well in terms of choice of shows, as well as comfort once you’re there.
Tour dates throughout August & September, including outdoor productions. More details and tickets available at www.littlebluemonster.co.uk/book-tickets.
For other shows at the Lawrence Batley Theatre visit www.thelbt.org.
Lawrence Batley Theatre, Queen’s Square, Queen Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2S