In a guest post for the Pigeon Pair and Me, journalist Courtney Daniel took her family to see The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show at the Ambassadors Theatre in London’s West End. Here’s what she thought.
Parents often wonder how old children should be for their first theatre experience. Well The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, which opened this weekend in London’s West End, is the perfect starter show for toddlers.
The show takes four of Eric Carle’s stories, including his most famous, and turns them into a lovely puppet show, designed to appeal to children from two to seven. All the elements are there: brightly coloured cloths dancing across the stage, bubbles blown over the audience, beautifully crafted animal puppets and familiar rhythmic words.
The Ambassadors theatre is a small and cosy venue, well suited for this. If you have slightly older children, I’d recommend sitting as near to the front as possible. In a show designed for little ones, there’s quite a bit of background chatter and the odd escaping toddler to contend with. Beforehand I thought it may be a little young for my 7 year-old but she was as transfixed as her 4 year-old sister.
The show starts with The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse. The Artist chooses a colour, a dancer dances with a cloth of said colour and then a puppet of whichever unexpected animal it is appears.
My two loved speculating which animal it was going to be at each turn – the eldest was particularly chuffed to guess an orange elephant, while the youngest giggled with delight at the polkadot donkey.
Next the stage is transformed into a seascape complete with bubbles for Mister Seahorse. Mrs Seahorse lays her eggs in Mister Seahorse’s pouch, then he journeys through the ocean meeting various other sea creature fathers who are carrying eggs. This was definitely one to appeal to the feminist Mums in the audience, but plenty for the children to enjoy too, with each fish carrying his eggs in weird and wonderful places.
From the sea, we go to the sky and darkness and light for The Very Lonely Firefly. A firefly is born and, on his search for companions, flies into various other lights like a candle and a lantern. The lights dancing around the stage in the dark fascinated the children, and the firework scene was declared to be the best bit of the entire show by my two.
And finally to the star attraction, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. From the familiar sun rise, the caterpillar wiggles his way through the story, dancing along his wooden perch and getting larger with each mouthful. The whole theatre joined in for the “But he was still hungry” line, and the older ones enjoyed counting what he had eaten each day.
Any child who has had the book read to them will be delighted to see the “real” caterpillar, and mine were overjoyed to have the chance to meet him at the end.
At just under an hour, it’s an enchanting experience for your little ones.
Don’t forget to check out our guide to the best theatres for kids in London.