Last Friday, the sun was shining and we were off adventuring. Eva’s friend J and his Mum J were taking us to the theatre! In the hitherto unexplored land of Southgate, the almost-furthest end of the Piccadilly Line. Sadly we never made it to the amusingly named station just one stop on. But on the way, we passed through another hitherto unexplored land of the bit of the North Circular that goes underneath the Crooked Billet roundabout. Some would call it a unnecessary diversion but hey, it was all part of the adventure.
Our destination was the Chickenshed Theatre, and a kids’ show called “Tales from the Shed”. I knew next to nothing about it or the theatre but I knew brunch was involved. So we sat down at the Brothers Grill and had a bacon sandwich and curly fries before we went in. Service was quick, the food was nice and the kids’ meals were enormous. Eva had a sausage sandwich and most of my fries, although she seemed to acquire some chicken nuggets from somewhere as well…I’m guessing she and her friends had a little swap shop going.
The show was upstairs in the Studio Theatre, which is quite an intimate space. Children were encouraged to sit on the floor/performance area rather than the tiered seating and throughout the show they were free to wander about and get involved in the action. One toddler was absolutely determined to get through the curtain at the back and darn near made it a few times. Eva’s quite good at sitting quietly but it would have been perfect for a Reuben at about 3 when he just wanted to move around all the time.
I had picked up some clues along the way that the Chickenshed was a big supporter of diversity (an actor with Downs Syndrome, for example) but it’s only now I’m home and reading through the website that I realise just how pioneering they are. Since the early 80s, they’ve been open to anyone, “disabled” or not. That’s some radical thinking for the time and it remains pretty radical today. They are doing valuable work in the field of inclusivity – have a look here for the full story.
So, onto the actual show. It had something of a “Show Me Show Me” vibe to it – puppets, wacky costumes, make believe and spontaneous dance numbers. The puppets were having a sports day but the plot was kind of incidental – it was more a device for getting the kids up and having fun, whether that was meeting a giant Dutch rabbit (Franz Von Hoppenheimer) or practising their egg and spoon racing. Sometimes they sat, sometimes the smaller ones ran in between the legs of the performers…but all the performers were very good and patient with them and just gently redirected them so they wouldn’t get trodden on. It was very fast-paced, colourful and energetic. The songs and dances were lively, the characters were engaging and Eva enjoyed the stories.
There were a few technical issues – the sound difference between those using a mic and those not was quite noticeable and it took a bit of adjusting listening to both volumes at once. Occasionally you’d see a puppet that wasn’t where it was supposed to be, but these were minor things. Certainly nothing that the kids would notice. They were too busy twirling and giggling. I believe it’s running every Friday and Saturday morning until 9th July, plus some half term dates (see more info here) and I would definitely recommend you go along. It’s great for toddlers but I think Reuben would enjoy it too, and he’s nearly 7 (though, as ever I’m in denial about that).
On the way back to the North Circular, we saw something which would have finished the day off perfectly – an offer for 30% off curry! Pity the poster said it finished in September 2007…Ah, well…