Storytime! felt less like a finely honed performance and more like an Apprentice challenge: in two days come up with a way of entertaining a group of five year olds for an hour. Don’t spend too much money and, preferably, don’t put too much effort into it. This would provide a reason for how little effort or thought has been put into this show, with C Theatre’s efforts being restricted to scattering some bean bags around, buying children’s books and proceeding to read them in the most patronising of manners.
The two performers took it in turn to read such children’s classics as The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and Olivia by Ian Falconer. One read while the other held poorly made photocopies so that the children can see the illustrations. It would have made far more sense to have turned the book around and learnt the stories by heart, but I guess that might actually have required a bit of effort.
As reading books go, it wasn’t awful. It was just very bad. True, they read clearly and with expression and got most of the words right, but any attempt at spontaneity or sincerity felt forced, which was reflected in the lack of interest from the children (one child spent the entire time rampaging around her mother, with no interest in the storytelling going on mere feet away from her). There are a few attempts at audience interaction but no one – performers, children or adults – really gets into it.
The weaknesses of the show were truly revealed whenever a child attempted to talk to the pair. They simply could not deal with one rather egocentric young girl, who, during The Very Hungry Caterpillar, decided to mention how much she likes every item that he consumes. After attempting to engage her, they just plough on with the story. In a way, it was amusing to see how ill-equipped the pair were at dealing with this, prompting the thought that perhaps they have never come across the alien species of Children before. In fairness, this is not necessarily the performers’ fault. They do not appear to have blessed with a natural ability with children; it feels like they have been forced into doing this show.
The only thing that saves this performance is the reliance on the texts which do at least have interesting enough storylines. But if it is the books that save the show, it is a mystery why anyone would want to take their child to this. You should save on the ticket price and buy them a new book instead. When you read it to them yourself, I’m sure that both you and your child will have far more fun.