Babe the Sheep-Pig at the Nuffield Theatre Southampton

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

A trip to the theatre is a special occasion. You get dressed up, indulge in some treats, flick through your progamme and take a seat waiting in anticipation for the spectacle to begin. It has been some time since I last went to the theatre, but it made this outing all the more magical, as did the fact that this was Elias' first time.

On Tuesday evening we strolled down to the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton and took our seats to watch the new family-friendly show 'Babe the Sheep-Pig'. This is a tale which I enjoyed as a child and I was excited to bring it into Elias' world too.

The stage was set fantastically; a sheep pen, a grand old barn ,various hay bales and county fair Sheep Dog Trial posters lined the walls when suddenly a 'sheep' edging its way into the centre of it all caught my eye, it was bleating and baa-ing-  much to the children's delight. I could hear them giggling with excitement through all the stalls. More sheep joined, clumsily bumbling around the set, making for great pre-show entertainment.

As the lights (or stars as Elias insisted on calling them) went down and I watched his eyes light up with wonder,it brought a tear to mine.
The costumes in this production were charming - a multitude of fabrics and items carefully crafted to truly bring the animal characters to life. A personal favourite was 'fly' the sheepdog, her raggedy 'fur' hung perfectly down her back all the way to her fluffy tail. And Mr and Mrs Hogget had the chubbiest prosthetic cheeks you've seen, out-done only by their thick Somerset accents

Then came the puppets , and they were truly something else.
I was aware that Babe was a puppet in this performance, but I had no idea that there would be others included too; that was until 3 puppies bounded onto the stage causing mischief and laughing boisterously. They were simply adorable, and, truthfully, I wanted to take them home!
The puppetry was done so well that honestly I forgot I was watching puppets throughout, their blinking eyes and lifelike limb movements really brought the tale to life and it was as if these animals were really there, in front of your eyes, chatting amongst themselves and living out these adventures.
I can only imagine how magical it must have been through the children's eyes.

Every now and then I looked over at Elias' and he'd point at the stage with sparkly eyes and cheerily shout 'Yeah! Yeah!' (one of his few words) through mouthfuls of Milkybar buttons, clearly loving everything about the experience.
Accompanying the story was a brilliant set of catchy songs and original music. The audience was invited to join in with one chant in particular, encouraging a feeling of excitement and tension to the story, leaving you feeling as if you were a part of what you were seeing - it's touches like that which make a theatre trip memorable.

Of course, to balance out the happy-go-lucky parts of the story where animals were singing and laughing together, there had to be the tense moments too. These were executed perfectly, keeping them appropriate for families while still demonstrating that something not-so-nice was happening. I wont spoil anything, but the 'wolf' scene was particularly striking; a giant costume denoted a sense of fright, while low lights helped to add an atmosphere without terrifying young children, even at the tender age of two Elias understood what was happening with the odd 'Oh-No' and without crumbling into frightened tears.

The performance started at 7pm and after a short interval at around 7:45, where theatre-goers were able to buy those adorable mini tubs of ice cream and quickly take children for a bathroom break, the story concluded at around 8.45pm. This was very well thought out and the ideal length of time to expect the younger members of the audience to sit and watch intently.
I was very impressed at how geared towards families this play was; although it is of course a family tale, the producers got it so right in terms of condensing the story and keeping the stage clear of clutter and miscellaneous objects. Everything was perfectly and strategically done to make for a magical and memorable time - there was even an area set up in the theatre restaurant where family pictures could be taken sat on hay bales and surrounded by 'Babe' production posters. We took a picture and it will make a lovely keepsake.

We thoroughly enjoyed this performance and happily it is set to tour the UK until October 2017, so that families everywhere can enjoy it. It will finish up in Southampton on June 4th, so there is still plenty of time to book tickets. You can find a full list of performance times on the Nuffield Theatre website - there are afternoon and evening time slots available!
In honesty, I was a little worried about taking Elias' to the theatre as toddlers do have a reputation for having some-what short attention spans, but I needn't have worried as there were plenty of other families in the same boat, meaning everyone was understanding and accepting that children don't always do what they're supposed to! Attending this performance has given me confidence to take Elias to the theatre again, he enjoyed it so much and we had such a lovely time together! I encourage anyone, with or without children, to take a trip to the theatre to see this production; its fun-filled and heart-warming - you won't regret it!

* Photographs were not permitted in the theatre, so some images used here are official ones.
*Tickets were gifted to me for this performance but opinions are all my own.

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