It’s a child’s world of fun and imagination and Beasty Baby adds to the dynamic perfectly with fun, beautiful songs, wonderful and often hilarious movement and fantastic puppetry.
Polka is a unique place. Being one of only a few theatres in the UK dedicated exclusively to young audiences, it often functions as a child’s first introduction to the theatre. And what a lovely introduction it is. The foyer doubles as a children’s crèche with wonderful puppets from previous shows on display and there’s a playground outside too. It’s a child’s world of fun and imagination and Beasty Baby adds to the dynamic perfectly with fun, beautiful songs, wonderful and often hilarious movement and fantastic puppetry.
There’s a vibrant and infectious energy to the show, helped largely by Polka’s intimate studio space. Children sit on the floor at the front right near the action, while parents will hopefully get a seat at the back. The performers are great, lending just the right amount of audience engagement to the show making it enjoyable and interactive for the children but not turning it into pantomime. ‘Imagine a baby’ we’re told as the actors mime family life with a baby who soon grows into the Beasty Baby; a fantastically operated puppet, who’s mischievousness almost borders on plain evil, but always remains utterly lovable. What ensues is a power struggle between the responsible grownups and the naughty infant. It’s a playful but also perceptive look at the family dynamic. There’s a healthy level of freedom in the setting of the piece too; it’s not necessarily clear who’s who in the family. It’s just three people bringing up a baby. Which is a refreshing touch.
John Leader showcases some brilliant physical comedy - at one section he literally crawls up the walls to try and get the baby to sleep and there’s wonderful Zimbabwean music and singing from the very talented John Pfumojena who plays a xylophone like instrument called the mbira, (hidden in a clock as part of the set’s changeable and well used set). Sian Kidd provides some brilliant puppetry operating the Beasty Baby with a mischievous energy and providing a very funny voice for the child as it forms its first sentences like ‘That one mine that one John John’.
This is a wonderful production about family life with touches of magic here and there too, particularly when the snow falls. If you’re looking for a show to introduce the little ones to theatre, or you want to take your child or your niece or nephew to a show that you can also enjoy with them, you can’t go wrong with Theatre-Rites’ excellent Beasty Baby.