Grove Theatre, Dunstable
Saturday 24 May 2014, 1.30pm
Charlie and Lola has the most annoyingly catchy theme tune anywhere on children’s TV. I was worried that after seeing the stage show I would be humming it for the rest of the day and beyond. I am.
But that aside, I was hugely impressed by Watershed Productions presentation of the BBC Worldwide and Polka Theatre production of the pair’s Extremely New Play. It was something I thought would pass the time for a four-year-old on a rainy day – I didn’t expect to be fascinated myself!
With a mix of puppets, live action and music, based on the BBC series of characters created by Lauren Child, the production uses four TV episodes and weaves them into one feature length piece about friendship and adventures.
It takes the audience through the season as the famous brother and sister discover that just like times of the year, things can be the same, but a bit different, change happens, but is not necessarily bad.
From autumn when the leaves fall and Lola has a new teacher, to spring when she doesn’t get picked for the school play, the pair, together with their best friends Lotta and Marv, also gently learn about responsibility, jealousy, disappointment and how sometimes people can be misunderstood.
But messages aside, it is fascinating to watch as a few moving stage “trucks” are skilfully transformed from scene to scene by five incredibly slick performers with what seems like hundreds of props, all directed Roman Stefanski.
To the youngsters’ delight, the two-dimensional puppets, which also include Lotta, Marv and Sizzles the dog, look like they have stepped out from the page or TV screen and are cleverly worked to a speech backing track.
It’s like a continuously moving puzzle as the stage is seamlessly redecorated with precision timing to depict different seasons and a circular screen at the back also shows animated film.
Plus, with snow and autumn leaves falling from the ceiling, the theatre filling with bubbles and puppets venturing into the audience, what’s not for a child to love?! Or an adult!
V’s Verdict – aged 4
I did like it snowing a lot. I liked the snow that was falling from the big circle on the stage and I enjoyed it. I liked the leaves falling off the trees.
Run time: 1 hour 15 minutes including an interval.
Age range: Aimed at 4-7 year-olds. Yes – for the dialogue but younger ones will love such a visually exciting show.
Other stuff: We got an activity programme but there was also a wide range of books for sale, plus other merchandise such as Lola rag dolls, beanie dolls, swim bags and purses.