The short Christmas production, Baa Humbug written and directed by Jo Sadler- Lovett and produced by Niamh de Valera at Southwark’s Blue Elephant Theatre is a true delight. Filled with exuberance and interaction, the production most definitely serves as a remarkable piece of children’s entertainment. Containing an underlining message based around mental health awareness and the importance of being transparent with others about feelings and emotions, the play demonstrates a real commitment in helping to educate the next generation through a lighthearted and engaging approach.
The writing explores the complexity of managing relationships at the most minute level and highlights the importance of communication. The intelligent delivery of the show makes it easy for anyone to take away elements of the writer’s message.
Consisting of a group of animal farm friends and a farmer, the story depicts a journey of exploration as the three friends approach the Christmas season – Chicken (played by Jonathan James), Cow (Oliver Yellop), Humbug the sheep (Alice Sillett) and Farmer (Mark Nicolson).
The selection of characters (including the narrative role played by Nicolson) and the context of the story make the play incredibly straightforward and child-friendly given the underlying message, but at the same time does not take away from the engagement that is witnessed throughout the performance.
The acting is a fundament in the success of the play and contributes to its overall excitement. The energy brought by each performer was perhaps the highlight of the show and allowed this reviewer to feel a strong and somewhat believable connection to the characters, making it easy to develop an understanding of them and their situations.
The frequent and friendly audience participation adds to the interactivity of the performance but also aids a sense of relatability that can be picked up in response of the children. Given the nature of the message within the play, this reviewer thinks that the element of relatability is a particularly important aspect to consider and would say that it is achieved well in this play.
The colourful costume design by Jacqui Livingston and set and light design by Operator, Stuart Glover is truly successful in bringing out the playfulness of the show and seems to be particularly appealing among children. Containing an array of loud colours, lively lighting and atmospheric music and sounds, the audio-visual aesthetics certainly contribute to the general magic of the performance and help to bring the story to life.
An overall exciting and educational show, this Christmas play for ages 4+ is unique in its approach. Able to deliver important educational messages though in fun and engaging ways that are easy to interpret. This reviewer would most certainly recommend it to the targeted age group and would encourage families and schools to invest in seeing the production.
Photos taken by Lidia Crisafulli