Siobhan Godwood reviews Cambridge Arts Theatre’s latest colourful family show
This adaptation of the hugely popular children’s book is ideal for children aged between 3 and 8, but there were children aged up to 12 in the audience when we visited who were clearly having a great time; although they might not have admitted it to their friends!
It was difficult to imagine how such a short book – I’ve read it aloud on many occasions, and it’s never taken me longer than 5 minutes! – could be adapted to an hour long theatre experience, but I was surprised and delighted at how the actors incorporated song, audience interaction and physical comedy to make this a fantastic experience for the whole family. The basic story is of how two sneaky robbers, Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len, are foiled in their plan to rob a farm by a gang of farmyard animals, who put a cunning plan devised by the ladybird into hilarious action.
I took Jamie age 7, and Aaron and Jack, age 9. Aaron says: ‘My favourite thing was how they made the animals out of really cool things. I thought they might be puppets, or people dressed up, but they used all sorts of props like wheelbarrows and rugby balls to make the different animals from the story.’ Jack agreed, and said that his favourite thing was having to keep a lookout for the ladybird, and shout out when you saw it. ‘The ladybird was either projected from a computer or made using the light from a torch, and they flashed it up in different place and we had to try and spot it. That was really fun.’
The 7 year olds were most enthusiastic about the songs, and the audience participation elements. ‘I really liked joining in with the singing, and all the instruments that the people played,’ says Jamie, ‘and learning all the actions.’
The performance was very cleverly done, with just four people on stage playing the main parts, and all the animals portrayed by inanimate objects. There was also a very funny set-up, involving the actors pretending to select a ‘dad’ from the audience to play Lanky Len, but eventually choosing the ice-cream seller; most of the children really believed that he was a poor unsuspecting audience member being dragged onto the stage!
All in all, this was an excellent family afternoon out, and at just over an hour, it was an ideal length for younger, wrigglier members of the family to enjoy themselves without becoming restless or suffering from wandering attention.