Thursday, 29 August 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: In The Night Garden Live! - The Palace Theatre, Manchester

It is not often my two year old little friend will sit still but the little man I accompanied to In The Night Garden Live took it all very seriously, he studied every move his heroes made on stage. If you have a little one and a television, chances are you'll be aware of IgglePiggle and his friends in the hit CBeebies show In The Night Garden.

The television show is the vision of Andrew Davenport, who came under scrutiny after the Teletubbies, accused of  'dumming down' the TV world of children. I, however, have followed Davenport's work and believe him to be a genius; the worlds he has created are actually entirely positive and encourage child development, especially language development.

In The Night Garden turns it's hand to the stage this year and I was very intrigued to find how it will translate to these little eyes and ears.

As we walked in to the theatre, our little dude, a huge fan, immediately recognised the In The Night Garden logo on stage and became very excited at the event. Clutching onto to his Upsy Daisy doll, we heard a slight tweeting bird sound in the auditorium, it was being overpowered by excited children's anticipation of what was about to happen. I really wanted it to be great, for them and I wasn't disappointed and neither were they. In The Night Garden Live is a fun, simple, light-hearted show to get excited about.

We appreciated the voice-over alert to the show “starting in 3 minutes” and again in 2 minutes and again that IgglePiggle was not in his seat! The lights went down and our adventure began, the audience still buzzing to meet their favourite characters.

The theatre show mirrors in format the TV show, with the familiar narrator's voice and known music, (composed for the live version by Davenport) the visuals that are projected and the well-known backdrop of the garden are all recognised by the regular viewers in the audience, even the puppeteers' costumes reflected the beloved world we already know and love.

The story was beautifully and simply told through the characters we had come to see, and their interaction with the narrator. As IgglePiggle searched for his friends, he discovered a noise which they are all encouraged by the narrator to follow. Along the way we met a giant Macca Pacca, who washes IgglePiggle's face and actual bubbles materialised, a magic enjoyed by little ones and adults alike. We met the dancing, singing Upsy Daisy in her world of flowers, an army of busy little red Pontipines, some very excited Tombliboos, the Ninky Nonk train of course and the star of the show; the Pinky Ponk airship!

I have to say, I was worried about what our little dude would make of the giant skin characters onstage, as he has previously become tearful when meeting his oversized hero Igglepiggle in a 'Meet And Greet' at CBeebies World (who wouldn't scream at a giant waving blue thing you have only ever seen inside a screen) but, although he was apprehensive he surprised me. The smaller puppet versions of the characters were a great idea and much more comfortable with him. The scale of these puppets were perfect as they jumped on puppeteers shoulders or walked the garden set, especially enjoyed was little IgglePiggle sailing across a sea of bedtime to the familiar theme tune.

Audience participation was encouraged and the best part of the show was very evident by the happy squeals and hellos from both children and adults as the main event emerged. When the giant Pinky Plonk flew out from the stage by itself, even I was overcome with that little bit of childhood magic. My little friend smiled as his eyes traced the airship above our heads in the stalls, behind the audience and right up to the circle to a chorus of wows of real delight.

Finally IgglePiggle, tired from his adventures had followed the noise and found his friends. The show was book-ended with a giant story book and all the characters went to bed. However, the ending we are all acquainted with, Igglepiggle was not in bed! He joined us for one last wave with his famed red blanket and went to sleep. “Well, isn't that a pip” as the narrator says, I say, we had a great time, if it aint broke don't fix it!

Reviewer - Cathy Shiel
on - 28/8/19

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