I have heard excellent things about the Unicorn Theatre in Southwark, and so was very excited to be invited along to watch The Baby Show. Many children’s shows welcome babies, but it is unusual to come across a production that has been written specifically for children so young. The Baby Show is aimed at little ones aged 6 – 18 months, and I was very curious to see how it would manage to hold the attention of so many babies!
The Unicorn Theatre itself is a brilliant venue. It is about a 7 minute walk from London Bridge Station, which is one of the stations that has lifts for your pram. We arrived about an hour early, and we were greeted by an usher straight away. We were told to make ourselves comfortable, and that someone would take our pram up to the theatre space ahead of the show. Someone would then collect us just before the show starts, and show us where to go.
The foyer was light, open and very friendly. There were toys, books, highchairs, and cushions, which were all new and very clean. It was a lovely space to play and relax while we were waiting. The cafe had a lovely selection of cakes and snacks, all with a reasonably healthy twist. You get a free hot drink with every purchase for morning performances, which made it so reasonable. My Mum, Jack and I shared a slice of lemon cake, a granola slice, a chocolate and beetroot cake, a cup of tea, and a hot chocolate, which came to just over £7.00! In Southwark! It was really delicious as well, and the lady serving us was lovely.
5 minutes before the show started, the steward came to collect us. The theatre was on the 3rd floor, and we were able to use the lift if we preferred. We entered the performance space, which was really nicely done. It was an intimate room, with a big green grass-effect rug for us to sit on. There were cushions to make us comfortable, and seats around the edge for additional adult observers. A trellis was decorated with fairy lights, to create a cosy atmosphere. There were washing lines over our heads and on the stage, with white washing pegged all over. The stage itself had a large, old-fashioned Silver Cross pram, a chest of drawers, and a single male performer. There were so many lovely things for the babies to look at, and the lighting was very gentle and relaxing.
The Baby Show
The show itself was very effective. The single performer was not the effect of a low budget, but a well-designed idea to help the babies to focus. At this age, having multiple performers on the stage would just confuse them, and any dialogue between characters would be lost on them. Having just one man meant that they always knew where to look. He started by singing an old folk lullaby to the baby in the pram. This involved lots of repetition and clear diction. He returned to this like a refrain throughout the performance – the babies were transfixed.
It was filled with lots of basic, fun ideas. Playing peek-a-boo behind the washing, throwing clothes over his shoulder as he searched through the drawers, and making lots of silly noises. Songs were sung, and music was played. Mittens and sensory scarves were handed out at different points, to give the babies something to touch and play with. A giant fan was very entertaining, and the babies squealed with delight when gently sprayed with a water mist. Ideas were repeated often enough to make them laugh, but not to much as to make them bored. The balance was very good, and they all watched carefully throughout. There were moments when lots of them were really laughing! Following the show, the babies were free to play on the grass, and explore their surroundings.
J absolutely loved The Baby Show. He is a very wriggly baby, who does not enjoy sitting still, but he was mesmerised. It was only about 30 minutes long, which was the perfect length to hold his attention.
The whole experience was very impressive. It is £10 for a combined adult and child ticket, and £5 each for additional adult tickets. This is a great price for such an imaginative activity, in the heart of London. The Unicorn Theatre has been running now for 70 years, and prides itself on its philosophy that ‘the best of theatre for children should be judged on the same high standards of writing, directing, acting and design as the best of adult theatre’. There are performances, workshops, and experiences for children right through to 18 years, and I will be enthusiastically following their future events!
Disclaimer: We were invited to watch The Baby Show in exchange for this review. I have not been paid for this post, and I would never write a good review about a show that we had not enjoyed.