Beasty Baby

Review by Flossie Waite
A Theatre-Rites and Polka Theatre co-production
Polka Theatre
14th Oct – Jan 3rd
For ages 3+

In Beasty Baby, three people embark on a big adventure by anyone’s standards: raising a child. Together, the trio (John Leader, Sian Kidd and John Pfumojena) navigate nappy changes and struggle with sleep deprivation, all the while looking like the cast of The Killing in an Ikea showroom. Though the Nordic influences are clear, Danish thriller it’s not – while Beasty Baby says the word “no” so often it becomes a catchphrase, throwing food on the floor is about as naughty as he gets.

Beasty Baby wasn’t always so beastly. The action begins with a newborn, who brings plenty of drama but in a much gentler fashion – being sick on people, crying often, the usual infant stuff. The quiet, slow start reveals the repetitiveness of a baby-centric routine but feels too long; things really pick up once the smaller puppet is hidden, and Beasty Baby emerges with a shock of red hair and unmistakeable grimace.

The trials and tantrums begin in earnest, to the adults’ despair – Leader is driven up the wall in an acrobatic attempt to place baby in a cot without waking him, and (as puppeteer) Kidd is left, quite literally, holding the baby. That said, there are ingenious parenting tips in here – Pfumojena shows that playing lullabies on an mbira hidden inside a clock works wonders!

It’s amusing to imagine the youngest children in the audience looking on with a wry smile and an “I remember those heady days. How young we were!” attitude, whilst their parents simultaneously watch the stage in shock, finding it all a bit too close to home. But whilst the production shows how looking after a beasty baby might bring out a monster mum and dad, it also includes the cuddly, cozy closeness that makes it all worth it.

Image by Robert Workman

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