“I’ll just turn my shoes off.”

Things have changed since I was a kid. As my five-year-old niece reached down to switch off the sparkly lights on her trainers, I reminisced about my childhood pre-theatre routine. ‘Take coat off…yep, that’s it.’ And Scout wasn’t the only one disabling a clothing device – two seats down a toddler was doing the exact same thing. To say I felt like a middle-aged aunty would be putting it mildly. 

Nevertheless, there’s something rather lovely about taking a small child to the theatre. With no kids of my own, it’s a new experience for me, and a welcome one at that. Things that would irritate me beyond belief at say Chekhov or Stoppard pale into insignificance in an auditorium filled with grizzly babies, restless toddlers and the constant refrain of “I need the toilet”. Having said that, it’s not the children who are badly-behaved, it’s the parents. 

What is it about a children’s show that says, “Hey, mums and dads, forget all the rules you normally follow when sitting in an auditorium, they don’t matter! Today it’s fine to keep your phone on, take pictures (with flash) throughout the performance, talk at a volume more suited for the pub, and pay little or no attention to your offspring as they kick the seats in front of them, run up and down the aisles, and shout to their pals at the back.”

Having said that, my niece didn’t seem to notice the cacophony and questionable behaviour, not even when the girl in the seat behind, sitting on her grandma’s knee, narrowly missed kicking her in the head. She sat quietly entranced by the hour-long show, pausing only to ask in a whisper if she could have her drink and Sherbet Dip Dab. In truth, there was much to enjoy in Room on the Broom at The Lowry in Salford. Staged by Tall Stories, this adaptation of the best-selling book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler stuck closely to the original story (woe betide anyone who messes with a five-year-old’s favourite book) and its well-known lines were neatly interspersed with perky song and dance numbers. Added to which, the set was a joy. As someone who spent today at another kids’ show where the stage consisted of a few boxes and a small red tent, I’ve come to appreciate the quality of some touring productions. 

It seems churlish to recount the story – if you’re a parent interested in this show no doubt you know it off by heart after countless bedtime readings, and if you don’t know the tale then I don’t want to spoil it for you. Suffice to say that there’s a witch, a cat, a dog, a frog, a bird, a dragon and a broomstick. And when I asked my niece what her favourite part was, she replied: “Everything.”

So, what are you waiting for? Schools are out until the beginning of September and those kids won’t entertain themselves. Iggety ziggety zaggety zoom! 

By Helen Nugent, Editor of Northern Soul

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room-on-the-broomRoom on the Broom is at The Lowry in Salford until August 27, 2017. For more information, click here.