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Children's shows - reviews

What the Ladybird Heard

Radlett Centre, Radlett
1 March 2014, 1.30pm

The human cast of What the Ladybird Heard with some of their creatively designed animals (pic Robert Workman)

The human cast of What the Ladybird Heard with some of their creatively designed animals (pic Robert Workman)

The story of how a set of farm animals, under the instruction of a clever ladybird, fool two thieves trying to steal the farmer’s “fine prize cow” is a favourite in our house (even though it takes ages to get through all the animal noises!) so the chance to see it come to life on the stage could not be missed.

This company tell the story faithfully, with lots of humour and incredibly catchy songs with the added twist that the stage manager first tells the audience the actors and the animals are supposedly stuck on the motorway so she has to pick two people from the audience to play the robbers, Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len.

They are plants of course – this was obvious as the chosen pair were clearly talented actors and not frazzled parents, relieved to have got to the theatre and sat down on time and without too many tantrums.

It gives the production another element, not to mention the frisson of either excitement or terror that runs through the audience when they think they may end up on the stage!

This plot device also gives the team the chance to make new animal figures which they do in an incredibly creative way – using items on the farm – which was fascinating for adults and children alike to watch. Who knew you could make a horse out of a bike and a bucket?!

Like the rest of the set, the results ended up being very like Lydia Monks’ illustrations in the book, so keeping the familiarity for the young fans, while cleverly not being exactly the same.

They also allow just four actors to tell the story of two thieves, ten animals and an insect.

All the key elements that make the book so popular are there too.

Dancing about before the show begins

Dancing about before the show begins

Children love making the animal noises (which often makes reading the book last longer than this show) and there is plenty of opportunity for them to do that here.

Plus, just as each page of the book has a ladybird on it that youngsters love looking for, so the ladybird on the stage “magically” appears in different places which gets the little ones shouting out and pointing in amazed excitement.

But the best clue to what an enthralling show it was, was V’s reaction.

She had been a typically tetchy four-year-old all morning with an extra large dose of ants in her pants. A fairly lethal combo.

But she sat for an hour completely transfixed by what was happening on the stage. Result!

V’s verdict

I liked the ladybird best, especially when she was in the tree. I wonder how she got there.

I didn’t like Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len because they were thieves and I don’t like thieves.

Run time: About an hour

Age range: The guideline is 3+.

Other stuff: Books and soft animal toys sold in the foyer – we got a souvenir poster programme for £1.50.

For tour dates see the show’s website.

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