Reviewed by Kathryn Carr
This week saw me take my two pre-schoolers for an afternoon with Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy and Makka Pakka.
‘In the Night Garden Live’ is back for 2019 with a brand-new show that has moved for the first time ever into UK theatres (rather than purpose-built domes) starting at The Lowry in Salford Quays.
Introducing my two to my love of all things stage was certainly made easier by first taking them to see their favourite characters perform live. As a result, my eldest daughter frequently asks me what’s on at the theatre and when can we go next.
My almost four-year-old was a huge fan of ‘In the Night Garden’ as a toddler but it’s also down to her bossy-self that her younger sibling hasn’t had quite the exposure she did. As a result, our entourage perhaps didn’t include the biggest fans of the show but as regular theatre-goers, there was a definite air of excitement as we made our way to our seats. The knee-high audience members were all certainly ready for an adventure and the noise just adds to the buzz; a slightly different air from your usual theatre trip.
Almost four years into parenthood and I’m no closer to understanding the set-up of ‘In the Night Garden’ but what I do know is the instantly recognisable, colourful creatures who inhabit a magical, picture book place are capable of holding a little one’s attention without really doing or saying much at all.
Much like the TV show, the theatre production ambles along without going anywhere. It’s cleverness clearly isn’t in ensuring parents ‘get’ the show but in that, its winning formula is perfectly matched to the CBeebies crowd. The storyline doesn’t get any more complicated than Iggle Piggle searching for his friends and following noises in the forest to find them. And that is plenty for its intended audience.
For many of the little folk, the characters on stage are their best friends. The full-size costumes, magical puppets and enchanting set bring the Night Garden to life, right in front of their widened eyes.
The show is approximately 50 minutes long and for the first 35 of those, if I hadn’t been so intent on watching my little one watch the stage, I could almost have forgotten she was there. I say almost, as her cute coos of ‘Daisy’ would have given me a gentle reminder every few minutes, each time the character reappeared amongst the trees. My little one was captivated. And me equally so, by the sheer amazement on her face.
I was worried my eldest would be too old to enjoy the show. What a scary thought! But she knew she’d been to see it when she was one and she enjoyed pointing out the Pontipines, the Ninky Nonk and the Tomliboos to her sister. She also joined in with Makka Pakka’s nonsensical song; an organised mish mash of ‘hum dums’ and ‘akka wakkas’; a real marker of her development since our last visit where we just about got a clap out of her.
‘In the Night Garden Live’ is an ideal musical theatre experience for the entire family. The grown-ups may well be looking for a hidden message that although won’t be found on stage, can be found in the faces of the little ones – pure innocence, joy and disbelief as the characters normally stuck in the telly are right there waving back at them!
‘In the Night Garden Live’ has been running for over 10 years and has received over a million visitors. This heart-warming production of the popular TV series may serve to baffle adults further but it will be enjoyed by all who attend; be it obvious in the children’s reactions to the show’s stars or those of the parents boomeranging off their own little stars’ reception to the action.
We watched ‘In the Night Garden’ at The Lowry Theatre, one of my favourite North-West (and UK) venues. Easily accessible by car with reasonably priced parking on its doorstep, the theatre also has good local transport links. As ever, I was welcomed by friendly staff, enjoyed the comfortable surroundings and benefited from an excellent choice of dining and drink establishments.
The Lowry presents audiences with a diverse programme of theatre, opera, musicals, dance, music, comedy and visual art as well as events and activities. I enjoyed ‘In the Night Garden’ with my daughters and in the past I’ve visited with my other half, my Mum and with friends. There’s something for absolutely everyone.
In The Night Garden Live is currently on tour around the UK, for more information and tour dates visit www.nightgardenlive.com.
For other shows at The Lowry in Manchester visit www.thelowry.com or call the box office on 0843 208 6000.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ | 0843 208 6000