I imagine as a children’s performer you’re probably prepared for a great deal. Shouty children, crying children, children who say they didn’t want to be at the stupid show anyway they wanted to be at home playing Xbox etc. What you’re possibly less prepared for is for a child to tire of shouting insults at you and, in a stage invasion, punch you squarely in the crotch. So the very highest praise must go to Nik Coppin, compere of “Huggers- Free Festival Family Fun”, who, upon being assaulted during what was really quite a funny joke about superheroes, simply smiled beatifically and carried on. It is the mark of a true professional, running what was a very tight show, to genially continue as a child repeatedly head-butts you.
“Huggers” is a cabaret/ comedy show for families with four different acts each day, all performed on the top deck of a (stationary) bus. Kicking things off in fine style was magician Stu Turner. He nicely blended comedy and magic, keeping the children agog with pacy card tricks and a nice line in slapstick humour.
Mr Snot Bottom’s humour could be fairly accurately determined from his name. The simple fact is most kids go wild with hysteria when adults say the words “poo” or “boogie” and Mr Snot Bottom (Mark Trenwith in dull adult world) exploits this to its full advantage. There’s little for adults here, some of whom- and some older children too- looked a bit uncomfortable at the non-stop scatological humour. Perhaps a long section on things disappearing up people’s bottoms and people rubbing their bottoms on each other- though wholly innocent in delivery- was ill-judged for a show where parents didn't know what to expect in advance.
Next up were Maurice and Belvedere (Ged Cogley and Jamie McCarney) two theatrical hams who encouraged the children to participate in a suitably silly poem about ghosts, complete with outlandish gestures. They earned the biggest laugh of the show from the parents with an impromptu 'King of the World' skit triggered when the music from 'Titanic' drifted in from outside.
Performing on the top deck of a bus with a low ceiling and a spread-out audience is no mean feat and of all the acts Peter Camblewell, another magician, struggled most with the challenging sight lines. His was a brand of illusionistic magic which, obviously enough, relied on the audience actually being able to see what was happening. As a moderately-sized adult sitting half-way back I struggled to see his rope and ring trick and the children behind me became notably restless.
All in, an enjoyable hour of varied family fun. And to the parent who asked if I had brought the head-butting child along myself to test the performers, the answer is no. Even reviewers aren't that cruel.