Reviewed by Tammy and Anthony Wildblood
I never would of thought to take our toddler to the theatre and then we were asked to review ‘Dear Zoo’ at the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre and as we have a 22-month-old active little boy, we thought it would be a challenge to see if he could sit through a play aimed at 2-5 years old. You will find out later!
We have never been to Stafford before and the theatre is situated in the centre which wasn’t difficult to get to and was a nice easy run from Derby. We found a car park about a 5 minute walk from the theatre and as we had decided to see the early showing (11am), we thought we would spend the whole day there. The cost for the parking was £4.30 for all day on North Walls and thought this was very reasonable.
We entered the Victorian theatre which had a couple of entrances and as we were arriving with a pushchair, we went in the Box Office entrance. There was an entrance with a couple of steps which took you straight into the coffee shop/bar. We ordered 2 bacon cobs, a latte and a bottle of water which only totalled to just over £7 which we thought was fantastic value. All the staff in the theatre and coffee bar were lovely, helpful, friendly and very welcoming.
After having breakfast, we put our pushchair in a large room which was available and had plenty of room for many pushchairs. We then took our seats in the theatre which was modern inside compared to the outside and seated around 545 people so it isn’t a very big theatre.
The stage was set with a massive version of the front cover of the book ‘Dear Zoo’. Now it was time to see exactly how the short children’s book could be turned into a performance to keep all the lively children entertained.
ROARRRRRR!!! Yes, that’s exactly how they got their attention! The sound of the lion filled the theatre, the show had begun and he children were suddenly quiet. Out came Sam the Zookeeper, he showed the children his hat with the word Zoo on and spelt it out, he then told us exactly what a Zookeeper does then left the scene.
Ben and Sally then appeared, very lively, energetic and speaking very clearly and slowly so the children could understand them. They were also dressed in bright colourful clothing to grab the children’s attention… they sure did this as the theatre was very quiet again for the number of children there. It wasn’t quiet for long though as Ben, Sally and Sam the Zookeeper interacted with the audience and kept the children entertained throughout the show. The children were all singing, jumping and hissing and all seemed to be enjoying it. Our 22-month-old son was mesmerised from the beginning and laughing especially at the naughty monkey. The show was set in Ben’s back garden with colourful flowers, a red truck and a garden chair which were all props that were used including a football. Sam the Zookeeper delivered the animals to Ben’s back garden in huge colourful crates or baskets which grabbed the children’s attention. Most of the animals had a song to sing which was funny; some also had actions which the children could join in.
I would think that the recommended age could be reduced to 18 months as there were children of all ages ranging from newborn up to about 5 years; they all happily watched the show. The only thing we would say is that because the ROAR is so loud, and all the children are roaring then it may upset some children but they won’t be upset for long.
After the show there was a merchandise stall and we couldn’t resist buying a few ‘Dear Zoo’ goodies as the prices were very reasonably, some even cheaper than the shops.
This was a production well worth seeing with a young family member and certainly worth the money!
One more thing before we finish… there is a special treat waiting at the exit and it doesn’t matter which one you choose but that is something you will have to find out for yourself!
Good educational children’s fun.
Dear Zoo is currently on tour around the UK, for more information and tour dates visit www.dearzooandfriends.com.
For other shows at the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre visit www.staffordgatehousetheatre.co.uk or call the box office on 01785 619080.
Stafford Gatehouse Theatre, Eastgate Street, Stafford, ST16 2LT | 01785 619080