Dora helps young minds explore

Dora the Explorer live

The New Alexandra Theatre

TRANSFORMING a children’s TV cartoon series to the stage is not the easiest of tasks but Nickelodeon seem to have done a pretty good job.

They avoid the inevitable comparisons with the US TV series by encasing the actors in giant costumes of the characters they are portraying and using a recorded soundtrack, which is perhaps as close as you are going to get to the original and it works for the target audience of pre-school youngsters..

We have Dora, she’s the explorer you see, and Boots the monkey, her best friend, then there is Diego her cousin, Tico the squirrel, Benny the Bull, Isa the iguana, Backpack who goes with Dora on her adventures and the talking Map.

Then we have the baddy, Swiper the Fox, who is so bad at being a baddy he must have a day job as well to keep body and brush together.

This isn’t high quality drama and the plot and storyline, at least in adult eyes, does not take kindly to scrutiny. Dora has lost her teddy bear, Osito,  and all her friends have lost their favourite toys so Dora launches an expedition to the City of Lost Toys to find them all.

That involves a trip through the  numbers pyramid and the mixed up jungle before arriving at the city and getting all the toys back. And that’s it.

But perhaps adults are not the right people to ask. The children in the audience, apart from one who thought banging seats up and down for 20 minutes was fun and will be lucky to see his next birthday unscathed, thought it was wonderful.

At every encouragement from the stage to jump, clap, push, wave or shout there was no shortage of enthusiastic volunteers.

My two year-old grandson sat transfixed through both half hour acts. He clapped when everyone else did, he clambered into the aisles to jump up and down when requested, he marvelled at the stars that swept over the ceiling a frequent intervals and his face lit up in amazed wonder as the audience were flooded in a deluge of bubbles from the roof, trying to catch them as they fell to earth and vansihed.

At the end he dragged me to the front and deemanded to be lifted up just to look and marvel at the stage where it all happened. If this was theatre, then he was hooked.

This is a show which shows its American origins with its emphasis on learning Spanish words – we have an Hispanic population of about 180,000 against 52 million in the USA.

But to the pre-school youngsters in the audience it was and hour of magical wonder – and with ice cream, drinks and all manner of goodies in the middle to boot.

The fixed foam heads which never blinked or showed any expression might have been a little disturbing for adults but the children didn’t seem to mind  - to them these were the characters they see on TV.

The cast (Samantha Brown, Holly Kristina Calf, Aimée Clara. Amelia Coles, Dominique Hamilton, Laura Naylor, Olly Pike and Sophie Wilkins) worked hard in what must be stiflingly hot costumes with plenty of catchy songs and dances the children seemed to know  - I must confess Dora is not on my list of essential viewing - keeping up the necessary cracking pace as young children can get bored and lose interest remarkably quickly at the merest hint of flagging.

 The most important thing of all though was that this was live theatre; perhaps not great theatre but with enough spectacle and excitement to show youngsters that the theatre is a magical and wonderful place. Dora might be entertainment but it is more importantly an investment in the next generation of theatre goers, which can’t be bad.

Roger Clarke 

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