If you’re dying to take your children to the theatre but can’t bear the thought of trying to keep them a) still and b) quiet for an hour, never fear! Help is at hand at The Garage in Norwich, which runs a series of ‘My First’ plays, which are ideal for small people. Guest blogger Abbie goes along to find out more…
I took Master M (2) to see ‘My First Panto: Rapunzel’ as a birthday treat. We walked down a tunnel lit by hundreds of fairy lights and arrived on the set. There was a tower in one corner, loads of cushions scattered around the floor, and – for those who are a little less mobile – seats at the back. You can sit where you like, and children were encouraged to use pieces of chalk to create some masterpieces while we waited for the play to start.
I was instantly put at ease by the friendly notes in the programme, which tells you not to worry about your children running around / asking questions / needing food. And… breathe! The room almost reverberated with collective sighs of relief.
The actors were there as we arrived, and they introduced themselves to the children. This is a lovely touch, especially for younger children who might find the experience a little daunting. Everything was designed to put harassed parents and restless children at ease.
The panto was interspersed with a series of activities. The children were never just passively watching for more than five minutes. At one point, they had to collect a series of root vegetables that had been scattered around the room. At another, they used shadow puppets to tell a story, or they were jumping around the room like frogs, using bowls and spoons to pretend to mix some food. You get the idea. These people know what they’re doing.
Children were also encouraged to help to tell the story. At one point, they were asked to think up a name for the lizard. To her credit, Rapunzel was totally unfazed by the unusual choice in our performance!
On that note, the actors are experienced at dealing with little inquisitive people who kept interrupting to ask questions, who were running around on their stage, or who didn’t want to join in because they were having a picnic in the corner!
Read more: Royal Norfolk Show
The panto was enhanced by musical numbers. The three talented actors all played an instrument, which was such a treat for the children. At one point Master M was serenaded by Rapunzel!
The story itself was a strong retelling, which nicely sidestepped clichés and stereotypes, particularly at the end, when the prince asked Rapunzel to marry him and she gave him a strange look and questioned why she’d marry someone she barely knew. She went on to say that they should go for a date and take it from there – maybe they’d marry, maybe they wouldn’t, or maybe she’d ask him to marry her.
Master M struggled a bit to keep his focus until the end, but the panto catered wonderfully for a broad range of ages. We were in an audience of pre-schoolers because it was a Monday but it could easily entertain younger school-age children.
All-in-all, I’d thoroughly recommend this as a friendly, interactive and relaxed introduction to theatre for children. As a side-note, if you get a chance to pop into the café afterwards, it’s my favourite child-friendly café in the city.
Big thumbs up to The Garage. We’ll be back for My First Play next year!
Live in Kings Lynn and fancy getting in on the action. All-In Productions are also hosting My First Panto: Little Red Riding Hood in the Vancouver Quarter? You can find out more and buy tickets here.
Images courtesy of Andi Sapey.