To visualise Sensacional, just imagine lots of itty-bitty small people, dressed up like stumpy-legged karate champions. Add a score that gently pulses; and vibrant, mesmerising visuals projected onto a white floor, on which the youngsters are invited to play. Hey presto: you have 40 minutes of quality toddler time.
Gwen and I were invited last weekend to see the Unicorn Theatre’s hit show Sensacional, a co-production with Barcelona-based Imaginart. It’s not easy to pitch theatre at the right level for the 18 month – 3 year age bracket. But this performance seemed to get it just right.
Toddlers are captivated by repetition; the sound-and-light show was on a long loop, which built up a sense of excitement when familiar graphics made a re-appearance beneath the children’s feet. Sensacional’s visuals held a fine balance between well-known pictures, and new ‘characters’. Flowers twirled around, then raced away; to be replaced by floating hearts, which all of a sudden sprouted legs and started marching to a drumbeat. Ducks quacked their way across the floor; trees, mushrooms and snowflakes swirled underneath the children, who either stood, entranced, looking down at one image, or chased the moving pictures until they were replaced by different ones.
On the whole, all the little ones seemed to be completely engaged by Sensacional, although there were a few attempts to scale the ranks of empty seats behind the ‘stage’. The mood in the room was relaxed (helped by the sole adult performer, who hopped, waved and rolled around, to encourage the kids to get into their own mini-grooves). Nobody seemed in the slightest bit bothered that the room was very dark, and strange creatures were traipsing around on the floor; despite the dimmed lights, the cute images and lulling music set a friendly tone.
My one criticism was that the stiff, starched white suits the children wore (a nice touch, which helped make the show a pleasing spectacle for adults as well as children) were a little on the small side. I had difficulty getting Gwen’s top over her head, and she’s not big for a two-year-old.
But it didn’t seem to bother her. When I asked what her favourite thing was about the show, she replied: ‘the ducks. And my new white clothes…’
Disclosure: we were given tickets to Sensacional. But all views expressed are my own.
Don’t forget to check out our guide to the best theatres for kids in London.