Sunday, August 07, 2016

It's been a while...

Yeah, so, it’s been a while (again).  Turns out that even when we do manage to find the time to take Little Miss Ritz on occasional trips to the theatre, finding the time to actually write about it afterwards is near impossible.  With that in mind here is a quick summary of what we’ve seen – and a promise that a couple of fuller reports on shows we've seen more recently will follow shortly. 

In the Night Garden Live – August 2015.

One of the things that we've come to realise when taking Miss Ritz to any kind of event is that the success of it is hugely dependent on so many external factors. A large element is simply what kind of a day she (or any other toddler) is having: a missed nap, a late lunch, a bad night... all can impact significantly.  And while there's little a show can do to prevent any of those, there are a whole host of things on the periphery of a show that when handled well optimise the chances of a successful day, but when handled badly will threaten to turn even the best show into a nightmare.  Fortunately, "In The Night Garden...Live" makes considerable efforts to make everything as easy as possible.  Show times are spread throughout the day with limited crossovers between arriving and exiting audiences; car parking, queues and meet-the-characters are well organised; merchandise prices are restrained and there's plenty of space for buggy parking.  Although I'd been filled with dread in advance of the show, any pain from the content was mitigated by the efforts made by the production to make this a memorable visit - for all the right reasons.  It is superbly slickly run and the temporary ‘showdome’ provides a fantastic first theatre experience in a small-ish audience where everyone gets a good view.  That said, it’s definitely worth paying extra for a premium seat (in the first few rows) and getting there early to sit in the front row (seats aren’t pre-allocated other than premium/non-premium).  The show itself is a mix of performers in costume and puppetry - and it ticks all the boxes little fans of the TV show want to see.  At 1½, Miss Ritz was at the younger end of the audience but she was entranced throughout – although some of the “mild peril” did have her cuddling in to us.  Photography is permitted throughout the show, and even a year later she loves looking at the photos from the day on a tablet.  We would happily have taken her back again this summer, but sadly it’s not returning to Glasgow for 2016 – and it’s not worth the trip to Manchester, Birmingham or London.  More info about this year's tour and to sign up for future tours see the website.

How to be a Christmas Tree – Cumbernauld Theatre, December 2015

Aimed at under 5s this was delightful, clever and funny – for little ones and adults alike.  This is exactly what I’d hoped all children’s theatre would be like: charming and silly enough for the kids but with a sprinkling of gags for the parents.  No panto style innuendo – just smart cultural references, absurd comedy and subversion of the format.  It’s simple concept was beautifully executed – although they did ‘cheat’ a little by avoiding mentioning the most significant element of the transition to between being a tree in the forest and becoming a Christmas tree.  Although the use of chainsaws may have upped its rating from U to 12A!  The 2016 show from Cumbernauld Theatre for under 5s is "Christmas at the Circus" and we'll certainly be booking up.

White – Tron, March 2016 (and touring again in October)

We'd heard so much about this show when Catherine Wheels launched it in 2010 that we considered borrowing nieces and nephews so we could go along.  So now that Miss Ritz was at the right age for it, I was really keen to see it  really keen for her to see it.  Perhaps that raised my expectations too much, but I really didn't get what the fuss was about.  It's definitely pretty to look at, and kept the young audience engaged, but I was left feeling that there must (or maybe should) have been more of a meaning or message to it - about diversity, tolerance and rebellion against suppression.  But although these themes hoverred in the background they never seemed to crystallise.  As a result, it just felt like a fleeting way to spend an hour, and although we talked about it for a couple of days afterwards I'm not sure Miss Ritz would even remember it now.  But it's unquestionably widely and highly acclaimed, so this is definitely an instance where your mileage may vary.  Info on the upcoming tour on the Catherine Wheels website.