As a mother I have many failings – we don’t need to go into those. As a blogger, I have quite a lot of failings. As a London Transport geek, however, I pride myself on having very few. But I have one recurring weak spot that has inconvenienced me almost countless times. By that I mean, I could count them if I really wanted to but choose not to. And that’s the fact that Tottenham Court Road tube is closed for Central Line services until December 2015. As we boarded the red line, my plans for a swift journey to Soho were thwarted – not that Roo cared, as he was enjoying the way that Central Line windows act like fairground mirrors and give you a “double-head”. He was constantly amused by this, which in turn amused the green-haired cyberpunk opposite us. I cursed myself a little for the extra walking we’d have to do from Holborn, but on the upside we found a very quiet branch of McDonalds opposite the tube, for our customary mother-son bonding lunch:
Judge away, judgers. Yes, that’s a Fruit Shoot.
After we’d had what passed as food, and maybe a hair or two in my “Big Tasty”, we wandered towards Soho. Roo was fascinated by a giant red lumpy thing at St Giles’ Circus and tried to sit in it but it was a bit slippery so he kept falling out.
Then we walked down Denmark St and marvelled together at all the sparkly guitars. One day, my son, you’ll be responsible enough to own more than a cheap ukulele. Or maybe not, given that Nathan taught him how to do “punk rock” with guitars. There are many things we regret teaching our kids and that’s just one.
We got to Soho a little early for the “Yonderland” screening we were going to, and I’d had in mind that we would wander around Pride for a bit and see what was going on. But basically nothing was…seemed we were a little early for that too. So we popped to the Living Room to see some friends from church and hung out in Soho Square, where Roo befriended this fellow:
Then it was “Yonderland” time! We found the Soho Hotel, down Richmond Mews and made our way past the giant cat to the screening room.
Now, I’m not overly familiar with “Yonderland” and must admit I hadn’t seen the first series. Still, when Mumsnet sent me the information, I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. It’s a mixture of live action and puppets, some of which were waiting to greet us when we got to the screening room. We grabbed a glass of mango juice each and settled down to see what this thing was all about:
So, to sum the plot up I’ll borrow from the press release, seeing as they’ve put it better than I ever could:
“Yonderland follows the adventures of mum, Debbie Maddox, aka The Chosen One as she discovers a whole other world in her kitchen cupboard.
In series two, settling into her role as Chosen One, Debbie of Maddox (the ‘of’ is optional) tackles more tricky tasks for the Council of Elders, while fending off Negatus and Imperatrix’s attempts to get rid of her. Then there’s hubby Pete, who is growing increasingly suspicious about the blue sparks coming from the kitchen cupboard…”
It’s essentially fantasy but coming from a very real-life setting (in one episode, Pete has an electrician out to try and fix the blue sparks). If that reminds you of “Labyrinth”, you’re not alone. In the Q&A afterwards, the cast/writers admitted that the Goblin King’s influence was strong in this one, and that they’d love to have David Bowie as a guest star. Cast-slash-writers, you say? Why yes, the team that created the show also star in it – and that’s the core of Mathew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas, Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard and Ben Willbond. That’s generally a good sign – that the writers have enough conviction in the material to front it themselves. It’s an unusual move on a children’s show, but if you consider the comedy greats – Monty Python, League of Gentlemen – it happens all the time.
So, is it a kids’ show? I’m not sure. Roo certainly enjoyed it but it had a few jokes that only adults would get (like a gag about a “happy ending” to a massage). The creators said it was a family show and that’s about right – there’s plenty here to entertain all ages.
In terms of style, what it most reminded me of was “The Mighty Boosh” – the real mixed with the surreal, the deadpan jokes. I wasn’t surprised afterwards to find out that Simon Farnaby had appeared in “The Boosh” and was working on material with Julian Barratt. I was more surprised to find out that he was Sloman in “The Midnight Beast” – I’m totally kicking myself for not checking earlier and getting a photo with him. I love the Beast. And the Boosh, as it happens.
That CV might give you a taste of the kooky humour that infuses “Yonderland”. The main character, Debbie, essentially plays it straight while the chaos erupts around her. It’s packed with pop culture references – from “Boogie Nights” to The Smiths (the first episode is called “Panic on the Streets of Yonderland”). There’s a pop act called Michael, Jack’s Son, and another who are entirely Blue. There’s a “Sherlock” character (the Cumberbatch version) and a Poirot puppet. And a pastiche of “Lord of the Flies”. Yet within itself, it retains its own identity. The costume design is – intentionally – all over the place. One of the council of Elders wears a Tudor ruff, another is dressed (or undressed) as a 60s dropout – there’s a strong Steampunk aesthetic to the villagers but at the same time, the DJ who is MCing the riots is straight out of 2015’s South London. Some people might not like this. Some might find it messy rather than charming, but I appreciated the carefully-engineered madness of it all. Some of the jokes are completely throwaway – a man dressed as Sharpe is selling “Sean’s Beans” but only for a second. Again, it’s good that they’re confident enough of their material to pile it all in, not worrying about keeping some back for a third series (and there should be a third series).
When I asked Roo what he enjoyed, he said “All of it” but a little further probing revealed that he liked the demons the best, especially when one put on “night vision goggles” that caused everything to go dark and so he stumbled around, walking into things. That sounds about right for Roo. He was flagging during the Q&A so we didn’t stay around for too long afterwards, despite the yummy cakes and mini-burgers. He enjoyed the show but was in need of a change of scene.
And what a change of scene! We exited into the very bright daylight of Pride, and all around us were men in nothing but their pants. So, an average day in Soho really. Roo liked looking at all the rainbow coloured balloons:
And I liked this neon shop we found:
But I had a destination in mind, which was happily on the way back to Oxford Circus tube. Our friends Big Fish Little Fish were playing the Family area of Pride, in Golden Square, and we were on course to catch the end of their set. As long as we didn’t get distracted by the rest of the family area, with its rainbow-coloured floor and giant games…
We didn’t. We just about made it in time for Roo to have a dance on the floor:
Don’t mock. They’re his moves. I spotted Natasha BFLF and had a chat with her while Hannah BFLF helped Roo to make an X-Men belt. I *think* it started life as a headband, but these things matter little to a boy like mine. Natasha darted off to fire a glitter cannon and left me in charge of her drink, but I’m pleased to say I did the honourable thing and handed it over to Hannah when Roo, inevitably, did get distracted by the rest of the family area, with its rainbow-coloured floor and giant games. Here he is playing Jenga:
I apologise to whoever owned the Jenga, as Roo also found a crayon and decided to customise the blocks. You’d think he’d draw superheroes on them but no, it was number bonds:
True story. We left soon after that, but not before bagging a free activity pack from Asda which kept him quiet all the way back to Walthamstow. So, a fun day out at the screening and just a little bit of Pride as well. Thanks to Mumsnet for inviting us!
Yonderland starts on Sky One on 13th July with a double bill at 8PM, including “Panic on the Streets of Yonderland”
I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity