Muddy puddling good fun

Peppa Pig’s Big Splash

New Alexandra Theatre

****

I HAVE a soft spot for the flurry of childrens’ TV shows cashing in on their popularity with a stage version tour.

They might be designed to entertain, and let us be honest, sell merchandise, DVDs, apps and even a Peppa Theme Park in the case, but behind all that is something much more fundamental and much more valuable – an introduction to theatre.

Children born into a world of computer games, tablets, apps and DVDs are given the chance to enter into a different domain, a realm of magic and imagination where there is no CGI or HD screens, just real people on a stage and the only processing power needed is in the heads of the audience.

Introduce children young to something they want to see and enjoy and hopefully they will be hooked for life – or at least enough will remember and one day become regulars to help keep theatre alive.

This show dispenses with actors in huge foam suits miming to a recorded soundtrack in favour of puppets held by actors/puppeteers much in the style of Avenue Q with only the rather large Mr Potato (Ryan Kirwan) in the padded suit.

Mr Potatoes solo, a fruity calypso with singing oranges and melons was perhaps the least successful section of the show. The audience had come to see Peppa Pig and friends not a singing greengrocers so despite a lively song, the fidgeting and chattering went up a notch – pre-school children can be hard critics.

A new character is introduced in the form of Daisy, who is a sort of  . . . well human, played with an infectious enthusiasm by Emma Grace Arends. She acts as the narrator introducing the cast of the popular TV series and driving the story along.

All the regular characters are there with Victoria Corlass or understudy Lindsay Harding as Mummy Pig, Kerry Gooderson or Evie James as Peppa, Eva James or Lindsay Harding as Suzy Sheep, David Sandham as Daddy Pig and Luke Spencer as Peppa’s younger brother George.

HIDE AND SEEK

The stories are simple, hide and seek, a lost dinosaur, a leaking roof in the play school, a childrens’ fete to pay for a new roof from Mr Bull (David Sandham again) and a puddle jumping world championship.

All linked by original lively songs with plenty of audience participation from clapping hands to catching and throwing balls, shouting and cheering and jumping up and down.

As a children’s show, aimed at young children, it is quite sophisticated and, as with Avenue Q, it is soon forgotten that the characters are puppets being carried around by actors.  Apart from a crying George, when he lost his dinosaur, or a huge splash from the world record besting muddy puddle jump by the entire cast and audience, there were no special effects. Everything relied on  the actors and an excellent job they made of it.

Peppa is a bit of a phenomena, a sort of nonsense centred around muddy puddles – telling children they should not jump in muddy puddles without boots on does not help that much pigs and piggy friends – and it is hard to find adults who like the series beyond its ability to keep children quiet in five minute bursts.

To adults Peppa is a bit of an annoying know-it-all, a precocious little pig while, for men at least, Daddy Pig is portrayed as a bit of a dumbo.

Yet children adore the series, a fact that could be seen with the number of stuffed Peppa Pigs, Peppa Pig bags and Peppa Piggeria arriving with the audience.

And, to be honest, they are the audience the show is aimed at, with parents and grandparents relegated to the role of transport and provisions providers.

And the target audience, including my grandson, Hallam, seemed to love it, and that is all that matters. Power to the pig. To 13-11-13. Performances 10am, 1pm and 4pm.

Roger Clarke

Peppa Pig continues touring through 2014 appearing at Coventry Belgrade May 21-22 and Wolverhampton Grand May 31 and Jun 1. http://www.peppapiglive.com

 

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