Review written by Flossie Waite
Presented by OH Productions and Worboys Productions
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For ages 5+
My dad taught me from an early age that when it comes to places to eat, the ambience is just as important as the food. What Signor Baffo’s Restaurant lacks culinary skills, it more than makes up for in atmosphere.
Baffo (Oliver Harrison) may only be Head of Washing Up at Figaro’s Restaurant, but he has big dreams of becoming a famous chef like his boss. Nothing can stand in his way, not even the fact he can’t cook! When Figaro (who is, by the way, inexplicably but hilariously from Yorkshire) calls in sick, Baffo realises that this is his chance – he will open the restaurant and be the chef, as long as the audience can help him.
Often in children’s theatre, there are two levels of humour created, with one layer pitched solely at the adults. Signor Baffo’s Restaurant is a brilliant lesson in avoiding this; none of the jokes are at the expense of children or aimed over their heads, and the result is families, and an entire audience, genuinely laughing together. The comedy comes largely from an onslaught of puns, though these are not to be underestimated. Yes, there are the more obvious play-on-words – runner beans having a race, but having to stop for a ‘pea’ or a ‘leek’ – but these are extended into fantastic realms. An instruction to ‘Make sausage roll’ leads to Baffo picking his favourite banger (called Jemima, obviously) and, rather than encasing her in bread, dressing her in a sparkly costume, all the better to perform an Olympic-standard somersault from an audience-member’s head.
In this very interactive, and very messy, piece of theatre, Harrison is a perfect host, able to whip the audience into hysterics but always in control. In the performance I saw, an overjoyed group of children became an unplanned mob who momentarily descended the stage, but Harrison, cool as a cucumber, made sure everyone got back to their seats quickly and safely without breaking character (or a sweat). That said, he is also eminently cheeky and exuberant, with a marvellous moustache to boot!
Signor Baffo’s Restaurant is Monty Python for kids; an imaginative, unpredictable, silly and surreal production, that will make you want to see inside the brain of its creator.
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