Disclosure: Tickets were given on a complimentary basis. Review as objective as possible given that giant Haahoos were on the loose…
In the Night Garden Live. We caught the show in its 02 Arena home, a domed tent guarded by gigantic inflatable Haahoos. Cue screaming from one excitable three-year-old in the queue: ‘A Haahoo is going to fall and SQUASH ME’. Get used to the noise. A half-hour in the company of a couple of hundred screaming under-fours would make even an ACDC concert feel tame. The children get very, very excited. And they aren’t afraid to make their excitement heard.
All four of our children have gone through a stage of Night Garden obsession, waving happily to Iggle Piggle on the TV screen, and blowing Upsy Daisy kisses. As any parent will know, the show is a simple affair. Set in a land of primary colours, limited vocabulary and catchy (if you’re aged two) songs, In the Night Garden helps children overcome their fear of bedtime and skip happily into bed every night. That’s the theory, anyway. Can’t say it’s worked in our family, but the show is undeniably soothing.
The stage version of the show follows the same simple format. All the characters are involved, huge ‘life size’ (though what’s ‘life size when you’re an Iggle Piggle?) character suits, and small puppet versions manoevured by puppeteers dressed in jaunty green and topped with bowler hats. Our three-year-old decided the puppets were ‘pretend’ and the large characters ‘real’, and Iggle Piggled with the best of them in time to the music.
The plot is beautifully familiar. Iggle Piggle and Upsy Daisy go on a lovely bouncy ride on the Ninky Nonk, during which poor old Iggle Piggle loses his blanket. He then traipses around the garden looking for it. I hope I haven’t spoilt the plot by revealing that the blanket is duly found before the end of the show, whereupon some of the characters have a nice little dance before the small puppet versions are shown tucked up in bed.
A word about the venue. Visitors sit (stand and dance) on wide steps. Seating doesn’t really work for for young, space to spread out does. The audience is close to the stage wherever you sit. Images of the Pinky Ponk, Haahoos and the bird posse, collectively known as ‘Titifers’ (which, even by Night Garden standards, is a pretty silly name) are projected on to the ceiling. So even if you’re lying down, something my 22-month-old did quite a few times, so overcome was he with the rock ‘n’ roll excitement of it all, there’s something to look at.
Quick apology. Sara Cox (yes, that one, off the radio) I am sorry that my son lay down on your foot. He was just trying to get a better view of the Tittifers (that’s what they all say…). Nice white sandals and pedicure, by the way.
If your child is Night Garden-obsessed, go to the show. Tickets are available from £10-£27.50, and the cash doesn’t stop leaving your wallet there. There is a lot of merchandise. Squidy mats to sit on. Hardback books. Whizzing light-up windmills. Throw in paying to meet a character from the show and your £10 basic ticket will have multiplied into Pontipine proportions.
But it is adorable to see your children lost in a world of eternal sunshine. It’s like Prozac for toddlers, so I think tickets should be made available on the NHS.
Old Deer Park, Richmond (16-30 June)
Brent Cross, London (7-22 July)
The Trafford Centre, Manchester (18 August-2 September)
Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham (9-23 September)
Tickets from £15 – click here to book.