Oliver Jeffers is one of my favourite children’s authors – in fact I bought Nick “Lost and Found” and “Up and Down” as a present for our first Christmas together! So when an email popped up in my inbox asking whether I’d be interested in seeing and reviewing an adaptation for stage of “Up and Down” by the GaGa Theatre Company I couldn’t really say no.
On Saturday we headed up to the Clapham Picture House to see “Up and Down”. It was Busby’s first time at the theatre and we were both a little apprehensive about how she’d react to the new setting. Nick was concerned that the production might not be able to keep her attention for the full 45 minutes and he was fully expecting it to all end in tears!
The Space and Venue
The theatre used for the production was great; big enough for children to run around in but not too big that people at the back missed out on the action. The theatre soon filled up and we were all kept entertained by the animations projected on the back screen.
It was also a very comfortable setting with lovely seats and lots of leg space! We were able to leave our pram downstairs in a “buggy park”, safe in the knowledge that it wasn’t going to be pinched. Booster seats were given out to the older children to ensure they didn’t get swamped by the very comfy seats.
The set was very simple but ever-so effective. Four boxes painted as brick wall were utilised throughout the performance for various needs, including prop storage and my favourite – an aeroplane! The animations on the back screen were fantastic and engaging.
The Set Designer even managed to get a backgammon table on stage!
The production began by prefacing previous Oliver Jeffers books; my favourite “How to Catch a Star” was in there, followed by “Lost and Found” (the story of how the Boy and the Penguin find each other). This may have been lost on other members of the audience, but as a serious Oliver Jeffers fangirl I loved it!
The story is about a Penguin who wants to fly and doesn’t understand why he can’t. His friend tries to help him using various methods but nothing works… until he runs off to the circus! It’s a fantastic story and a great choice to be adapted into a theatre production.
The play was a mixture of physical theatre, animation and music. This meant that there was always something going on; not a Pinteresque pause in sight!
There was a fair amount of audience participation involved, which I’m not always the biggest fan of, but it was fabulous for keeping the children in the audience engaged. Busby particularly loved the Penguin, and whenever the actor came near she clapped and smiled. A major highlight for me was the use of giant parachute over the audience to reinforce “Up” and “Down”; all three of us enjoyed being underneath the parachute with its beautiful colours.
I know what you’re thinking “Theatre for babies? Really? Is there any point?” but it was certainly an eye-opener! Busby LOVED it! She was engaged for almost the entire 45 minutes; watching the animations, clapping along to the music, laughing at the Penguin. I think the production might be wasted on a baby under 5-6 months, unless they are incredibly alert, but at 10 months old Busby thoroughly enjoyed the whole play.
“Up and Down” is playing at various picture houses around London up until the start of November (2013) and is for babies and children up to age 7. You can find all the details on the GaGa Theatre Company’s website.
I’d like to say a huge thank you to the lovely PR, Anna, and the production team who invited us for refreshments afterwards – we felt very accommodated and it was great to chat to you all.