10 April 2016
Reviewed by Deborah Banasko
“Hey, Grumpy Koala!”… if you see the show, this phrase will be with you for days to come!
I went to see this show with my husband, 4 year old and 17 month old, with no expectations as we were not familiar with the story. What an amazing one-man show!
Parking was easy, in a multi-storey next to the bus station. An additional bonus was that parking is free on Sundays! The theatre is around 10 minutes walk from the car park, but not the easiest to find so I would suggest walking through the shopping centre linked to the carpark and ask a passer-by!
The theatre itself has the appearance of an art gallery rather than a theatre. The foyer that we were directed through was small, but modern and very clean. There was also a concessions stand for snacks and gifts from the show, and staff were very polite and helpful when we asked for an area to leave our pram. The performance took place in a relatively small theatre, with a stage and chairs arranged over 3 or 4 levels. There were no issues with restricted viewing. Being in a smaller room worked, as it allowed more intimacy with the performance and a sense of involvement in the show. In fact there was a great amount of audience participation.
The scenery was bright and certainly got my daughter asking questions before it started. It began with the story-tellers daughter; he just wanted her to give him a hug but she refused. So he began to tell the tale of how Koalas first learnt to hug, and we learned about Natasha the grumpy Koala and how her bad mood led her to do something terrible. In time she discovered that she was in fact lonely and needed a good hug. At the end we are faced with the story-tellers daughter again… will she give her Daddy a hug?
The show used puppets and various props to depict a sweet story that young children would find interesting yet easy to follow.
What I loved about this show was the ability of one man to keep so many children enthralled from start to finish. There was a clever mix of allowing the plot to develop, easy to learn songs and audience participation.
Within minutes of it starting, there was a gorgeous little song with bubbles being pumped all around the auditorium. Both my children were dancing and (as instructed) popping bubbles!
Another hi-light was the chorus of children every-time Natasha the Koala pulled a moody face “Hey, grumpy koala”. The story was interspersed with the passing around of a huge picnic leaf (containing sweets), a toy koala for everyone to cuddle and during one song we had the story-teller and Natasha the Koala move through the audience as part of a game. Just fantastic and so exciting for the kids.
The final song “Hug Natasha, Hug Natasha, Hug” complete with a simple dance routine was just beautiful… and what an equally gorgeous ending.
This is a fun and real feel good show… throughout we are encouraged to hug our loved ones as part of the story and I just came away feeling happy and thoroughly entertained. My 17 month old was perhaps a little young to appreciate it, but he loved the dancing and managed to behave for the hour which speaks volumes about the variety of things going on within the show. My 4 year old thought it was just brilliant; she can be a little shy but the size of the room meant she did not feel self-conscious and just went for it with the songs and phrases.
The actor came into the foyer afterwards to sign books or tickets for everyone which was a nice gesture.
I cannot give this show anything other than 5 stars! An adorable story told by a talented and likeable man who clearly knows how to get children enthralled and excited. Just brilliant! I would recommend anyone who likes a good hug to take their children to see this show.
How The Koala Learnt To Hug is currently on tour around the UK, for more information and tour dates visit www.ptc.org.uk/how-the-koala-learnt-to-hug-story.
For more information about shows at the Parr Hall visit www.pyramidparrhall.com.
Pyramid & Parr Hall, Cultural Quarter, Palmyra Square South, Warrington, WA1 1BL | 01925 442884