Trying to entertain pre-school children, as most parents will gladly confirm, can be a difficult task. It is for this reason that so many turn to professional children’s entertainers to help them with the task and the Teapot Theatre Company do a simply unbelievable job of just that.
From the moment that the children arrive, with some fairly reluctant parents and grandparents in tow, Gretel Sophie Carmichael engages them in conversation and, having created a friendly and welcoming atmosphere, she settles the youngsters on the floor and the grown-ups in their seats.
Gretel’s older brother Hansel Freya Wynn-Jones soon appears on stage and the two actors begin the performance with some audience participation songs and rhymes. It is very noticeable that, without exception, every adult in the room joins in with the songs with their early reluctance already melted away - a testament to the good work done by both actors.
Danny Lawson, initially playing the children’s father, completes the trio of performers and he is also very accomplished at engaging the children and taking them on this wonderful journey. After playing the “imagination game”, father is tired and, as he falls asleep, we all don our coats and head out into the “forest” to search for strawberries to add to his porridge. With impeccable timing the British weather does its worst and, as we head outside after carefully laying a trail to find our way back, the rain comes down.
Thankfully the brief shower passes quickly and now it is time for some singing, during which Wynn-Jones shows off her superb voice and Carmichael joins in with some impeccable harmonies. There is also some more audience participation, again with the adults in the audience taking the lead, after which the children settle down to “sleep” until morning, when we can find our way back to Hansel and Gretel’s house.
When we do return to the performance room the set has changed to the Gingerbread House and we meet Granny Knickerbocker – Lawson’s other role in the piece. Granny’s idea of playtime fun in rather more extreme than a lot of children are used to but after much talk, and some very realistic examples, of troll bogeys and goblin warts, everyone is totally engaged in the story and we rapidly head towards the inevitable happy ending.
The production is accompanied throughout by Mark Dickman’s original score which, in some of the scenes, is played live by cellist Claire Cant. Both haunting and relaxing, the music adds depth and feeling to the overall experience without being a distraction.
Not enough praise is given to those who entertain the youngest of our theatregoers, but it is they who will deliver our next generation of adult audiences and, with productions as engaging and entertaining as this, that young audience is being extremely well schooled.