Grove Theatre, Dunstable
18 November 2012, 10.00am
Ever since the tickets arrived weeks and weeks ago, V has been talking about going to the Ben and Holly show.
Why tell her you may ask, why get her all excited? Well,we told her she MIGHT be going, then the theatre stuck a thumping great Ben and Holly sticker on the envelope. She is not stupid – she knew what they were!
Finally the great day arrived and by the time we got to the foyer she was beside herself, and even more delighted to find her cousin and uncle had come too.
Walking into the auditorium, the stage was already set with the familiar green bushes and colourful flowers from the TV series. Then Ben and Holly arrived and the fun begans for the first ever stage version of the BAFTA award-winning TV animation.
The Little Kingdom is home to fairy Princess Holly and her best friend Ben Elf. Holly is still learning how to do magic and sometimes her spells don’t work out. Ben is an Elf. Elves don’t do magic but they are very good at making things. Ben doesn’t have wings but he flies on the back of Gaston the Ladybird.
It’s pretty simple, adapter and director Richard Lewis has taken about four of the popular episodes and meshed them together with other familiar fairyland incidents, such as a ropey Elf band and a jelly flood (Yay!) into a story, complemented by original music and songs.
So, after they have cleaned Gaston’s cave, they go on a trip to The Big World with tooth-fairy Nanny Plum to get “big girl” Lucy’s baby tooth.
Lucy wakes up so is shrunk in order that she can visit fairyland and they all go back to prepare for King Thistle’s birthday. He has a cold so they prepare a remedy for him which he drinks rather than rubs on his feet and it turns out it’s cure for baldness not flu!
The Elf band prepare for the birthday celebration which gives everyone a chance to sing “I Am the Music Man” before they start to prepare his party food including jelly – cue a jelly flood! Yay!
OK, so for an adult, the story might veer all over the place and not follow a natural path, but youngsters will enjoy the short episodes with familiar characters and plenty of opportunities to join in and tell Ben and Holly what they should do.
At about 90 minutes long, including an interval, it’s a fun, happy show with a bright and colourful set which is faithful to how it looks on the telly which immediately gets a child’s attention.
The new musical adventure is from the producers of the two hugely successful Peppa Pig theatre tours but while that stage show uses puppets, this has actors in masks, which to be honest, in the picture in the programme looked a bit freaky.
But once it got started all thoughts of this disappeared and V and her cousin, (aged two and five), engaged with it straight away, especially as the performers recreated the characters accurately both in terms of costumes and voices.
Puppets were used at one stage when Princess Holly, Nanny Plum, Lucy and Ben Elf flew through the night back to the Little Kingdom and it made for a magical scene and finish to the first half.
For me, the judge of whether V is enjoying it is how fidgety she is. She is a child who doesn’t like to sit still but she happily sat enthralled only moving around to swap between her seat and my lap and giving a running commentary throughout – apologies to those around us!
Her favourite part was the jelly flood obv, I won’t say how it’s done but there’s no need to worry, no audience participation is required!
About 35 minutes per half with a 15-20 minute interval. Just right!
V is 33 months and her cousin is 5. Both seemed equally as engaged with it.
There is lots of merchandise available, pricey but good quality – T-shirts, bags, purses and Gaston cuddly toys. We got a programme for a fiver and succumbed to a “Holly” flashing windmill. Her year-old Night Garden one had lasted for a fair few different shows before it gave up the ghost, so even though this one was £7, I figured it would see us through panto season!
“I loved the jelly flood because they got covered in it.”