28 September to 1 October 2016
Reviewed by Louise Watts
I am not sure who was more excited about being given the chance to see and review this show – me or my 2½ year old animal obsessed son. We attended the delightful Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells yesterday at 10.30am to see Mr. Popper’s Penguins.
We got there early as traffic was on this occasion kind! Parking was easy in the car park just around the corner. In the evening they do a fixed rate of £1 after 6pm but today it cost me £3.20 for 3 hours which I felt was fairly priced. We had the chance to explore the theatre and enjoy a cup of coffee and a biscuit in the café – all of which was very reasonably priced. The staff were all delightful and had a chat to my son asking whether he was looking forward to seeing the penguins and gave him a Mr. Popper’s Penguin sticker.
Mr. Popper’s Penguins is based on the novel by Richard and Florence Atwater. It has since been made into a film starring Jim Carrey. The story revolves around a budding wannabe explorer and his wife “Mr. and Mrs. Popper”. One day he has a delivery on the doorstep… a penguin from the South Pole, sent by Admiral Drake. The funny story follows how he goes from having 1 penguin to 10 and how they make themselves famous as a group of performing penguins before all returning to the South Pole.
The show started promptly and right from the start it had the children (and adults) attention! The set was simple but perfect, the small cast of 4 plus 10 penguins were delightful. The costumes were very fitting with the story. When the first penguin entered the stage my little boy was hooked. The quality of the puppets was incredible and the puppeteer had complete control. You could almost have yourself believing that they were real. At the end of the show the cast had the audience up on their feet dancing like penguins with a simple routine that even I could master! The kids were dancing in the aisles, as were the parents. An absolute delight to finish the performance.
As well as giving credit to the cast who were enthusiastic (despite the theatre being 2/3 empty) and performed beautifully to the people who were in the audience, congratulations must be given to Luke Bateman and Richy Hughes for the brilliant lyrics and music. The songs were simple, easy to follow, uncomplicated and yet amazingly brilliant. A true family performance suitable for all ages. My son loved it, I loved it and I have no doubt if it had been on in half term my other children (aged 13,11 and 8) would have loved it too! I am sure the cast and crew were rather disappointed by the lack of people in the audience and I do not believe that this is a reflection of the show, just the timing with children being at school.
In my opinion this is a true family musical. A fun family hour of imagination and excitement. It is suitable for all ages of children and adults and I really hope it goes on and succeeds. An innocent, family, fun show.
Tickets cost £12.50 (booking fees may apply).
Mr Popper’s Penguins is at the Assembly Hall Theatre in Tunbridge Wells until 1 October 2016. For more information or to book tickets click here or call the box office on 01892 530613.
Assembly Hall Theatre, Crescent Rd, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 2LU | 01892 530613