Reviewed by Kathryn Carr
What a magical experience our outing to Aleena’s Garden was. The sensory show aimed at 0-3 year olds was held in The Aldridge Studio at The Lowry Theatre. We may have been inside but the audience sat on the ‘grass’ under a ‘tree’ surrounded by flowers; a far cry from the usual regimented seating of a theatre. With both the freedom and encouragement to move around, this show is an exploratory delight for wiggly, little people.
The interactive adventure is a sensory journey through the seasons, using lights, music and magic to set the scene. On arrival, each child was given a brown, paper bag that contained their very own props that they would use at various points throughout the show to put themselves right in the heart of the action. My daughter and her fellow toddlers planted pom, pom seeds, returned fluffy bees to their hive and pegged tissue paper flowers on Aleena’s tree.
The story explores textures and drew the children in with the gentle repetition of themes, including the colourful, shiny and soft seeds which magically multiplied and grew into flowers. Aleena used Makaton signs throughout the show to further communicate ideas, meaning it would also work well for children with special needs.
I have never heard so many ‘wows’ from my two-year-old and I, as she was, was particularly entranced by the appearance of bubbles that mimicked the arrival of snow against a suddenly darkened sky.
I loved that Aleena gave the children tasks to do. Aleena’s Garden is not something you merely watch, it’s something you become part of. It was a joy to see children and parents working together in a fun yet educational setting. The fact that it all took place in a theatre rather than a classroom made it even more special.
From silk scarves floating overhead to snuggling under blankets to stroking a puppet named Sally Squirrel, Aleena’s Garden is a spectacular sensory show. Put together by Salford-based theatre company ‘Colour the Clouds’, the production is a wrap-around experience. From the off, I was enveloped in a hug of activity and I not only felt part of the show, there was a sense of belonging – families coming together, enjoying their children experience the magic of both theatre and nature.
The 50-minute show was very reasonably priced at £5.50 per person, no matter their age. That did mean I had to pay for a ticket for my 5-month old and although she didn’t really seem to do much other than lie on her back and kick her legs, the gentle rolling and reaching to touch the props and see more colours, clearly wore her out. It was worth the money for the resulting three-hour nap! The baby, the toddler and myself left The Lowry with big smiles and warm hearts.
With a small tour ongoing, if you can get to London, Derby, Doncaster or Huddersfield in the next month, it’s definitely worth it. For more details about the theatre company and their shows (including Aleena’s Garden) visit www.colourtheclouds.co.uk/theatre/aleena.
The Lowry is one of my favourite places to include in a day out. The family shows and workshops are fantastic and the staff are always helpful and friendly. I generally visit with a pram and whilst they aren’t allowed in the theatres, the staff help you park them up conveniently outside and tag them so you can easily claim yours after the show. Thanks to The Lowry, my two-year-old has become a frequent visitor of the theatre and she always enjoys the experience. With accessible parking, plenty of options for food and drinks on site and nearby, the opportunity to walk and explore the canal and Salford Quays and a neighbouring outlet shopping centre, it’s easy to make a day of it. The theatres put on some fantastic shows and host popular artists in their main venues but what I really love is the more intimate family friendly areas where the action often takes part within the audience rather than using the more traditional looking-out-to-stage seating format; it’s so kid appropriate and a fantastic way of introducing younger members of the family to the arts.
For other shows at The Lowry in Manchester visit www.thelowry.com.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ | 0843 208 6000