Television shows don’t always adapt well to the stage, and when a well-loved children’s show is transported into the theatre, the cynical among us may wonder if this is simply an exercise in taking candy from a baby (or, at least, from the baby’s parents)!
So, it is a pleasant surprise to find Minor Entertainment’s production of the BAFTA award-winning CBeebies children’s TV show, In the Night Garden, is actually rather well done. Yes, the tickets are quite expensive, and yes, it is almost impossible to leave without buying some sort of merchandise (such as a Pinky Ponk balloon, a snip at £8), but after all, as Jean Seberg observed, it’s called show business, not show art.
The great thing about this adaptation is that it has been put squarely into the theatrical domain. Rather than trying to recreate the televisual experience, it creates a new, solidly theatrical one with exceptional professionalism, using techniques that are as old as theatre itself. It is perhaps no surprise that the director, Will Tuckett, trained at the Royal Ballet School and is a well-known choreographer, as the space is utilised very artfully, and a natural (well-choreographed) flow is maintained throughout.
The brilliant puppeteers are key to the success of In the Night Garden Live. They work deftly and inconspicuously throughout, weaving the magic of the simple story. Narrated, as always, by (a recording of) Derek Jacobi, there are also actors in full-size costumes and nicely understated projections to help the action along. The characters are treated to superstar welcomes by their young audience, and there is the sort of excited buzz in the theatre that only toddlers can create.
It is actually a great introduction to theatre for small children. On the one hand, they are provided with the security that the characters and stories they know so well bring, on the other, they are presented with a proper piece of theatre. And at an hour long, it is also just the right length to sustain a small person’s attention.