On Monday, our school holiday got off to an uproarious start. We watched Harry Potter doing a smelly fart in the face of a grumpy unicorn called Natalie, to make her forgive him for sticking his hand down her throat to yank out his wand. Confused? Well, it all made sense at the time. It was part of the anarchic storyline constructed entirely by children at the Showstoppers’ Kids Show.
Showstoppers’ Kids is based on the Olivier Award-winning West End musical for adults. Through theatrical wizardry and pizazz, it pulls off an hour of entirely improvised entertainment. A small troupe of bouncy actors, clad in primary-coloured dungarees and t-shirts, invite the audience to share their ideas for characters, settings, and plot developments. And then, together with a musician who just oozes talent, they launch into dialogue, songs, mime and a bit of dance. It’s not entirely polished around the seams. But the good-humoured, high-energy stageplay is fun from start to finish. The actors move effortlessly from one scenario to another, with no sign that they’ve only just been told what to do.
Our show began with a warm-up, where they asked us to cheer in turns. First it was the under 12s, then the under 8s, then the under 5s. Although the show’s aimed at children over 6, there was a sizeable roar from the under 5s, and I think the plot we ended up with reflected that. At the Showstoppers’ Christmas Special, where the audience was noticeably older, the storyline involved Sweetie Pie the fairy kicking Donald Trump to death. But on Monday, the audience cheered louder for a story set in Hogwarts than a plot beginning with Brexit. So a wood outside the famous School of Wizardry is where our story began. And our light-hearted caper, involving grumpy unicorns, smelly farts and strawberry ice cream, was a real tonic in today’s rather nightmarish political climate.
The Showstoppers’ Kids Show prompted some good discussions with the children about stagecraft, and how actors do their jobs. A handful of props were put into play for the performance. These included a pair of ‘Harry Potter’ spectacles, a wand and a cloud made out of cardboard. My son noticed that the cloud, used to show Harry Potter’s farts, could also be a speech bubble, or a puff of dust. Children are likely to choose magical storylines, so keeping a wand just off stage would always be a good idea. At seven and nine, my two children were young enough to enter fully into the silly nature of the performance. They were also old enough to appreciate just how clever the people on stage must be.
I completely agreed with them. We loved Showstoppers, and with every performance different from the last, we’d happily go back for more.
The Showstoppers’ Kids Show is at Underbelly on April 8, May 6th, June 16 and July 7th – all at 3pm. Tickets are available from £14.50. The performance is aimed at children over 6, and lasts 60 minutes. The Showstoppers are performing at other venues across England. Do check out their website to see if they’re visiting a venue near you.
If you would like to read about another Showstoppers’ performance, read our review of their Christmas show in Leicester Square, London.
Showstoppers gave us tickets for the purpose of this review. All views are my own.