Five Little Monkeys

Reviewed by Flossie Waite
A Baby Panda production
At Little Angel Studios until Sunday 5th March
For ages 2-5

Five Little Monkeys is Sesame Street meets Sooty & Co – a token human being (Andrea Sadler) is surrounded by chatty puppets in a curriculum-driven show. The educational bent of this play is numbers. It’s Sue Keeper the Zoo Keeper’s first day at a Counting Zoo – I’m still not 100% sure what a Counting Zoo is, but Sue is nutty about numbers so it seems like her dream job. But a passion for maths isn’t enough – Sue fears she’ll be sacked when she can’t get Little Monkey to go to sleep. Luckily, there are four other number-loving primates around to lend her a hand, in this production based on the nursery rhyme Five Little Monkeys.

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The play comes from the makers of Dogs Don’t Do Ballet, the successful picturebook adaptation that is returning to Little Angel later this year. Andrea Sadler has years of puppeteering and performing under her belt, including in recent Little Angel productions  A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings, The Paper Dolls, Cindermouse and Fantastic Mr Fox. Five Little Monkeys draws on the creative team’s wealth of experience, offering us an array of different puppets from the gorgeous long-limbed monkey in the moon whose moves mirror a reggae beat, to a doctor created in front of our eyes from a silver teapot and glasses. The audience are actively involved throughout: what’s your favourite number, Sue Keeper wants to know, and what would you want as a birthday present? There’s music – each monkey has a different style, from funky rapping to classical ballet – and familiar nursery rhymes (so many songs about counting!)

Still, it’s important to remember that this is the first production from Baby Panda Theatre, and as such it feels like a solid but cautious start from an emerging company. Audiences will enjoy this colourful, musical, formulaic performance, but it doesn’t offer anything new.

Children’s Theatre Reviews exists to help plug the gap in criticism and writing about theatre for young audiences. It is run entirely voluntarily, and needs support to continue covering and supporting the sector. For more information and to help give children’s theatre the voice it deserves, please visit our Patreon page.

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