18-19 March 2014
Reviewed by Amanda Whittam
and four year old twin girls
We arrived at the Regent Theatre in Stoke with two very excited four year olds and were pleased that we found it easily in the town centre. The theatre was modern and offered a selection of sweets and snacks to tempt us. It was very busy inside with a number of school groups waiting to find their seats for the production. Unfortunately there was a delay in opening the doors into the theatre (we weren’t told why), which created quite a few frustrated and bored pre-schoolers and also delayed the start of the production. The staff were reasonably helpful, but seemed unable to deal with the relatively large crowd.
When we got seated, we were excited to see the stage set up as a farmyard and to listen to the farmyard sounds as we waited. The production started with singing and an introduction to the cats and the fine prize cow, which immediately captivated our little theatre goers. The story then unfolded that the cast needed the audiences help to tell the tale, getting the audience involved right from the start. Two actors were placed within the audience, who were then cast as ‘Hefty Hugh’ and ‘Lanky Len’ and were charged with helping to create the farmyard animals to tell the story. They cleverly used props to set up the farmyard scene and introduced us to a farmyard song which was repeated throughout the performance, allowing the children to recognise the words and sing-a-long. The talented cast used instruments to help tell the story, which really added to the atmosphere, particularly the flute playing as the ladybird danced. Once the scene was set, the actors were able to tell the story in Julia Donaldson’s words and proceeded with the plot to steal the fine prize cow.
The production ended with a sing-a-long which the children loved! The songs involved actions, clapping and dancing and everyone joined in. It really was a thoroughly enjoyable play, which we would highly recommend to any pre-schooler (and parent). At only an hour long, it is just the right length to hold their attention without getting bored and fidgety, and the level of audience participation made it a fantastic visit. Definitely a must for Julia Donaldson lovers and as a first trip for to the theatre for little ones.
For more information or to book tickets at a venue near you visit www.whattheladybirdheardlive.co.uk.