[Note from Nell: this review of Polly Dunbar’s performance is a guest post, which was kindly written by the Daddy D. Thank you, D!]
Tilly and Friends, unlike Borgen, Homeland, Scooby Doo or Melody, is not one of the TV shows that have had a significant impact on our home lives recently. All I could really recall about the TV series was some sweet sketch animation and a surprisingly eerie theme tune, and we have not read the books with either of the Pigeon Pair to date.
As a result I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when I arrived at the Royal Festival Hall, along with our sleepy almost-two-year-old girl, to see the author as part of the Imagine Festival.
What we got was an introduction to Polly Dunbar’s imagination from the author herself, a world where narcissistic bossy chickens wear blusher and where a penguin can and will bite a lion on the nose in defence of a small boy. Polly herself was wonderfully engaging and refused to be put off by the sort of surreal heckling only offered by the under-fives. I don’t think there is any adequate comeback when one is persistently interrupted by an audience member shouting; “You should never, ever, ever eat elephant bottoms. Ever.” However she remained remarkably unphased. In fact she was so approachable that the whole show was punctuated by the most persistent stage invaders outside of a One Direction gig, most of whom seemed to want nothing more than to get on stage with her and show her their tummy.
Polly read from one of her Tilly books whilst simultaneously illustrating the story on a flip chart, asking little helpers to add details to the pictures, and flipping backwards and forwards to develop the drawings and the plot. As someone whose artistic abilities are already being challenged by his four year-old son I’m easily impressed by this sort of thing, but it was very cool watching all this develop in real time, and Gwen was tellingly rapt throughout. There followed musical interludes, dance instruction (for the children), and a reading of her prize-winning book Penguin – with the eponymous hero of the story appearing as a glove puppet on-stage.
It was an hour that passed quickly, and there was enough opportunity to dance, wriggle, shout and generally get involved that even the youngest kids seemed to have no problem in maintaining interest throughout. If you get a chance to see Polly I would recommend you do so. If not, remember the tip about the elephant bottoms.
Disclosure: we were given free tickets to see Polly Dunbar, but all views expressed here belong to the Daddy D.
Don’t forget to check out our guide to the best theatres for kids in London.