Aliens Love Underpants, the phenomenally successful book by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort, has been transformed into a stage version. After a well-received tour of the UK, Underpants Live has returned to London. We were invited to the West End’s Dominion Theatre to watch the show.
The book version of Aliens Love Underpants has a rich concept and eye-catching illustrations, but little in the way of plot development (it is, after all, aimed at the under-5s). So Adam Bampton-Smith’s stage show has introduced an extra storyline to the book’s conceit of aliens coming to earth to steal our underpants. A boy called Tim is kidnapped by the aliens, and taken to their planet, to face the challenge of identifying washing symbols. In the meantime, his mother (played with sparky magnificence by Eve Pearson-Wright) has to buy new pants when all the household underwear disappears from the washing line. On Tim’s return to earth, nobody believes that he’s been hanging out with knicker-stealing aliens. Before and after the story, there’s a bit of padding in the form of entertainers coming on stage, and asking the audience what sort of pants they prefer, whether they enjoyed the story, etc. Cue much shouting from excited pre-schoolers.
For my children (aged five and three), Underpants was pure fun from beginning to end. The songs were catchy, the alien puppets were well-crafted, and skilfully handled. But I did feel that Aliens Love Underpants was a show for the kids. Perhaps it’s because I’ve washed one too many dirty pair of pants in my life (my children have only just come through the potty training stage).
Having said that, the Pigeons (aged five and three) were unreservedly enthusiastic about this performance, which makes me question whether it’s genuinely possible to make children’s theatre that appeals equally to children and adults. Austin and Gwen have, for the most part, enjoyed everything I’ve taken them to see, but the shows that I think are brilliantly clever, sometimes have an aspect my children don’t enjoy so much.
So I thought I’d hand the rest of this review over to them, and ask what they liked so much about Aliens Love Underpants.
Austin (aged 5): “I liked the fact that they changed the book. What we saw wasn’t the book, it was the play, and if it had just been the book, the story would have been too short.
My favourite bit was when Tim was made King by the aliens because he knew what the washing symbols meant. Mum didn’t know what they meant [i.e. me – and I am very proud of this bit of ignorance].
It was a good idea to have the people on stage at the beginning of the show. They were asking us what our favourite pants were, and it was funny.”
Gwen (aged 3): “I liked all the bits, especially the aliens stealing the pants [Me: this was my favourite part, too – a slick bit of puppetry slapstick]. The smoke was a bit scary [there was some dry ice on stage at one point] but it was grey, and I like grey. The Mummy was nice.
Underpants was fun, and I enjoyed it. I didn’t like walking to get to the theatre though” [there’s no pleasing some people…]
Aliens Love Underpants was at the Dominion Theatre, London, until 5 September 2015. Tickets were £24.55, £20.40 or £16.25.
We were given tickets for the purpose of this review. All views are my own.
To find out more about theatre for kids in London, check out our feature.