Today’s guest post is written by Helen from break a leg, If you would like to know more about Helen, please scroll down to the bottom of this post where you can find her details.
To say that theatre is a dominant part of mine and my husband’s lives is an understatement. I’ve been a theatre and entertainment blogger for the best part of six years and my husband is an actor and singer. Need I say more?
In 2013, having branched out to create my own theatre reviewing blog http://www.breakaleg.biz, I discovered that I was expecting a new addition to our ‘showbiz’ family. Our little performer-to-be was much wanted and we were over the moon. I admit I wasn’t particularly enamoured with the morning sickness my ‘condition’ saddled me with – which was actually post-tea time sickness and rendered me out of action on the theatre reviewing front for approximately three months. If the nausea hadn’t been so, well, nauseating(!) I’d have probably spent the best part of that time resembling Eeyore with my bottom lip poking out in a most unsavoury fashion. A week without a trip to the theatre? Unheard of in my world!
Returning to my first love was a beautiful thing, indeed, enhanced only by the unrivalled moment of feeling my sickness-inducer moving for the first time – during ‘Peron’s Latest Flame’ in a performance of Evita. Probably no coincidence that such an impacting musical number inspired the teeny one to have a dance inside his cocoon. His parents met during rehearsals for an amateur production of Hello Dolly, so the odds were always stacked in favour of us bearing a child who responded enthusiastically to music.
Skipping ahead many, many months, returning to theatre-going without my tiny dancer was akin to having my right arm chopped off. Was I more comfortable in my seat? By golly, I most certainly was! Could I go a whole half a show without an urgent hankering for a trip to the loo? Well, let’s not be hasty, I had given birth approximately six months previously! However, my over-riding feeling was that I wanted to share the theatre with the new addition to our family as soon as I could. Is it a fanciful decision I have since regretted? Sometimes, I’m not going to lie! Connor, the small person in question is now 3 ½ years old and I’ve lost count of the amount of times he’s been to the theatre, now. So, for those of you who have wondered when the right time might be to introduce your young breed to live entertainment, let me share some of our experiences, good, bad, embarrassing and otherwise:
As an entertainment blogger, Christmas is one of my busiest seasons – oh yes it is (sorry!) Connor was just shy of his 2nd birthday when he became acquainted with the Great British Pantomime. He’s a seasoned pantomime-goer, now!
• Likes: He loved watching the choreography and big dance numbers definitely hold his interest, equally musical numbers (as long as they’re not of a ballad nature) are a firm favourite for the tot. He enjoys booing the baddie and cheering the goodie. Surprisingly not so impressed by special effects.
• Dislikes: Sitting too far away from the stage, if he’s seated far back in an auditorium he fails to engage and we spend much of the show dishing out snacks at an astonishing rate just to give our fellow audience members an easier time. This is not pantomime-specific, this has been one of our main finds regardless of the show.
This is an exhaustive list, but some of the options we’ve explored have included Pongo’s Party (Pongo is voiced by Justin Fletcher of Mr Tumble fame, but he’s not actually present on stage), The Gruffalo’s Child, Tiddler & Other Terrific Tales and First Hippo On The Moon, The Scarecrows Wedding. Some have been hits and while others have been near-misses.
• Likes: Although during some of these shows our young theatre-goer was either tired (clashing with nap time was not a good choice, we discovered to our detriment), or the recurring issue of sitting too far back to fully engage with the action re-emerged – he still talks about these experiences. He remembers the songs most of all. Puppets are used in some of the afore-mentioned performances and that medium is a winner with tiny ones.
• Dislikes: Actors or puppets not resembling the characters they’re supposed to be re-creating. The best example is in The Scarecrows Wedding – the Scarecrows were on stage from the beginning, but their dress-up was so subtle that the recurring question from our 3 year old was “when are the scarecrow coming on”. By the time we reached the finale he still felt cheated, it seemed and felt sure he hadn’t actually seen any scarecrows!
Disney On Ice
We are self-confessed Disney fans and it’s naturally rubbed off on Connor. We’ve been to Disney On Ice a few times and it’s never failed to bring a smile to all of our faces.
• Likes: What’s not to like? Disney characters in abundance telling the stories we know and love and that our child is growing to know and love too. It’s never mattered how far away we’ve been sitting, either – excitement is the order of the day.
• Dislikes: So far so good, and Connor has attended from a very young age, too. In fact he sat still more often when he was not quite a 2 year old!
Theme Park Entertainment
We are fortunate to have been able to take our boy to Thomas Land in Drayton Manor Park, Cbeebies Land in Alton Towers Resort and Disneyland Paris. The shows at all of these venues were brilliant and worth the money in themselves before we took the rides and experience into consideration. Of course, when it comes to Disneyland Paris the shows were spectacular and even brought a tear to the eye of my husband and I.
• Likes: Favourite and well-loved characters always go down well with our little lad, he is familiar with television and film characters so to see them ‘in the flesh’ gets a huge tick from him. Plus there’s no pressure for him to be quiet, which in turn relieves the pressure from us. The opportunity for meets and greets never goes amiss either – for any of us!
• Dislikes: Nothing to dislike so far, perhaps we’ve been lucky…
One of the biggest surprises was our toddler sitting through and engaging thoroughly with an amateur production of The Witches by Roald Dahl! This was Christmas 2016 so he was weeks away from his 3rd birthday. In a supportive gesture to a dramatics society we had previously been members of, and against what I thought was my better judgement, I took Connor along. My friend and Connor’s Godmother joined us with her 8 year old daughter. Whether the company of his buddy helped or sitting on the front row meant that his attention was captured and held, I couldn’t possibly say. What I can report is that his behaviour was exemplary, he happily announced to the seated audience that “the witches are coming” which was met with collective laughter and he laughed in all the right places. Older children were leaving in the interval because they were scared, Connor couldn’t wait to get back to his seat to watch the rest of it. It’s fair to say he absolutely adored the show.
All children are different and they develop at varying rates, I wouldn’t like to hazard a guess as to the right age to begin a child’s experience of love entertainment. We did what felt right for us and it’s not all been plain sailing. However, the more we take him, the less stress involved in the activity and with Christmas bringing me another wide selection of pantomimes to be reviewed, I’ll be delighted to have my Evita-loving boy as my plus-one.
Helen is an entertainment blogger, she started break a leg as a midlands based theatre review blog back in 2013. Since then it has grown to include theatre from around the country, television series episode reviews and music reviews. Helen can regularly be found reviewing theatre in the West End, which was only ever a pipe dream.
Helen’s love of entertainment was firmly rooted during her childhood and it’s rare indeed for a week to go by without her having been to the theatre or to a gig.