Reviewed by Kathryn Carr
I love it when the school holidays roll around and theatres add a family show or two to their programme. This half-term, I took my two daughters to the super family-friendly Waterside – an arts venue located in Sale town centre, Greater Manchester.
We went to see ‘Guess How Much I Love You’, a theatrical take on the Sam McBratney book of the same name. Despite this tale being somewhat of a modern classic, it isn’t one I’ve ever read to my girls. It was the promise of puppets, live music and interactive play from producers Selladoor Family that had me hooked.
The show is aimed at children three years and up but it was my youngest at just 18 months old who seemed more caught up with this show. She was transfixed.
The power of repetition really came into play with dance moves and lyrics reprised time after time to reinforce the story’s messages. Simple dialogue such as ‘Acorn, tree’, ‘Egg, bird’ and ‘Tadpole, frog’, accompanied by matching actions really conveyed the wonder of nature to the young audience. The show got off to a slightly slow start and I thought I may have a wriggly one-year-old to contend with but it was my three-year-old who wasn’t immediately engaged. However, five minutes in, the pace picked up and our journey through the seasons with Little and Big NutBrown Hares was a success.
The set was very cutesy and despite never having read the story, I did recognise that it was based on the book’s illustrations. For fans of this popular adventure, it must have been like stepping into the pages of the book. My girls also proved that you don’t need to be familiar with the tale to really enjoy the show. The way the flowers flipped and doors flapped to reveal details of the different seasons was cleverly done. Autumn saw a spraying of leaves and my eldest’s favourite part of the show – the Box Monster! This was perhaps the most energetic moment of the mostly calm production and appealed to my boisterous pre-schooler. A regular theatre-goer, she’s always willing to join in with shows and I felt that ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ wasn’t as interactive as I’d imagined. ‘Mother Nature’ silently yet enthusiastically encouraged the children to join in with actions using gestures but I don’t think it quite got the reaction from the audience it deserved. A few well-placed verbal commands would be an easy fix. This kind of show would perhaps work best in a space where children can sit around the edge of the performance area and really be immersed in the action. That said, The Waterside is an intimate venue that isn’t at all overwhelming for children.
The show is made up of just three cast members and the interaction between Little and Big NutBrown is adorable, particularly at the end of each night (or should I say season) when Little holds Big’s ear to ensure there’s lots of listening going on when they compete to describe just how much they love each other.
‘Guess How Much I Love You’ is endearing and a lovely way to spend an hour of quality time with the family. I’m going to leave my review there and hand you over to my daughter to sum the show up in the words of a (very chatty) three-year-old…
”We had a lovely time at the theatre. I loved all the singing and dancing and I loved all the seasons. I liked Winter because it was snowy and shivery but I wasn’t cold! I loved it when the flowers came up in summer too. The Box Monster was funny and it was good when at all the night times, the little bunny kept holding the big bunny’s ear and they told each other they loved each other lots. I was hoping it didn’t end. My friends should all go and see it.”
Guess How Much I Love You is currently on tour around the UK, for more information and tour dates visit www.guesslive.co.uk/tour-dates.
For other shows at the Waterside in Sale visit www.watersidearts.org or call the box office on 0161 912 5616.
Waterside, 1 Waterside Plaza, Sale, M33 7ZF | 0161 912 5616
It was our first visit to The Waterside and it was a fantastic experience. Just a couple of miles from the M60 and a few more from Manchester City Centre, this Arts venue is conveniently located for North-West theatre-goers. We parked at the Q-Park just round the corner from The Waterside (theatre ticket holders can claim a 20% discount) and the Metrolink Station is right across the road.
We received a friendly welcome from all the staff who kindly directed us into the theatre and explained where we could park up our buggy. The bar was open following the performance, selling drinks and snacks and offering a welcoming space for me and the kids to wrap-up ready to head back outdoors.
Being in the town centre, the theatre is ideally placed within walking distance of a number of coffee shops and pubs if you wanted to tie-in a meal or drinks with your visit.
Whilst I was at The Waterside, I was keen to find out more about what they offer. From looking at their listings I already knew the place was pretty amazing at catering for children and their families. In the next couple of weeks alone, there’s performances of ‘One Man Shoe’, ‘Aarrggh Dinosaurs’, ‘Egg and Spoon’ and the monthly serving of ‘ComedySportz’ (interactive games and songs). For a real festive treat, watch out for Raymond Briggs’ ‘Father Christmas’ in December.
I was interested to learn that The Waterside also host weekly children’s classes including musical theatre, Baby Move and Groove and Messy Play. There’s also a monthly drop-in art club for families on the third Saturday of every month.
The Waterside invites families to join their Family Club for just £7.50, for which they get discounted theatre tickets, half-price tickets to family films and the art club and invitations to exclusive events. I’m struggling to think of a family-friendlier venue.
What’s more, with the Waterside made-up of a theatre, art galleries, studios and workspaces, it can play host to a whole host of comedians, contemporary theatre and musicians, offering something for all the family, not just the smallest members.
For more information and to find out what’s on, visit www.watersidearts.org