The Ugly Duckling at The Lowry Manchester Review

UglyDucklingThe Ugly Duckling
The Lowry, Manchester

19 February 2017


Reviewed by Kathryn Carr

“Three talented performers tell tales with great gusto”

This weekend we joined a skilled troupe of storytellers at The Lowry Theatre in Salford Quays, Manchester to explore four of Hans Christian Anderson’s famous fables. Children and adults alike were invited on a theatrical journey that adapted the famous stories – The Emperor’s New Clothes, Thumbelina, The Nightingale and The Ugly Duckling.

Since having my daughter, I’ve discovered The Lowry to be fantastic at hosting productions devised for children and I was eager to visit again. The Thick as Thieves company in co-production with Red Table Theatre put on this hour long show that with minimal props encouraged everyone to draw on their imagination. The three talented performers created a relaxed and friendly vibe as they recruited small audience members to play pivotal roles in the unfolding of the plots. The squeals of ‘me, me, me’ were a joy to hear as the cast asked for help in the form of both words and actions from volunteers. This process took place before the production began and whilst it added well-placed magic to the telling of the stories, it did draw out the time little bottoms were required to sit on seats.

The cast are certainly skilled storytellers who understand the tone, body language and words that will best engage youngsters. With just a few pieces of costume to convey ideas, the actors relied heavily on exaggerated gestures, facial expressions and timing to get the storylines across. They were very encouraging to those chosen for ‘supporting roles’ and enthusiastic in getting the whole audience to participate in selected segments.

What I love most about The Lowry is that families are actively encouraged to bring even the smallest members of the brood to shows. As someone who regards theatre as an important learning tool in terms of developing creativity, listening skills and imagination, this places the venue right at the top of my favourite child-friendly destination list.

This particular production with its four short stories could have been ideal for my daughter but at only 21 months, she wasn’t quite as engrossed as I’d hoped. In this instance, she was perhaps just a little too young for the style of this show but with very reasonable ticket prices (these were priced between £5.50 and £8.50) and likeminded families guaranteed, a visit is always worth a punt. Although the show includes music (the sweet singing voices did catch and hold my little one’s attention) and playful audience participation (she loved pretending to be a frog), it did feel a little long and by the end, younger ones were wriggling a restless dance. I’d certainly recommend the show for school age children who are outgrowing Goldilocks and The Three Little Pigs. Preschoolers on the other hand may prefer fairytale to fable. Three rather than four stories may have been sufficient for little and big kids alike but I do have to praise the efforts of the performance team who certainly told the tales with great gusto.

As usual, The Lowry’s front of house team were welcoming, friendly and helpful. The venue is ideally placed next to the outlet shopping mall, a variety of restaurants and a convenient multi-storey car park. The Lowry’s website has a dedicated ‘families’ micro site detailing suitable shows, children’s art, dance and music workshops, kids eat free offers and information about the under 5’s activity gallery – The Lookout. It’s very easy to grow a theatre visit into a full and fun family day out.

Rating: 4/5

For other shows at The Lowry in Manchester visit www.thelowry.com.

The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ | 0843 208 6000

4 Star

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