Top 10 Shows of 2017

We’ve enjoyed another 365 days of exciting, inventive, unusual, brilliant children’s theatre – below are Editor Flossie Waite’s pick of the top 10 shows seen over the past year. Every effort was made to watch companies and work from across the UK and around the world; thank you to our Patreon supporters who help to make this possible.

Aston’s Stones
A Teater Pero production/Reviewed at Southbank Centre as part of Imagine Children’s Festival/For ages 3-6

“At just 30 minutes long, Aston’s Stones is a short piece but for an audience with a renewed appreciation for little things, Teater Pero’s play is small but perfectly-formed. In fact, Aston’s Stones is as close to perfect as theatre gets.” Read the full review here.

Falling Dreams
A Het Filiaal production/Reviewed at Traverse Theatre as part of Edinburgh International Children’s Festival/For 10-15 year olds

Falling Dreams is like an existentialist, emo Alice in Wonderland – a young girl falls down the sink hole of pubescent turmoil, rather than the rabbit hole, and finds herself less longing for home than locking horns with her hormones. As in Lewis Carroll’s tale, Falling Dreams becomes curiouser and curiouser: there’s no Mad Hatter asking riddles about ravens and writing desks, but there is a man-sized talking crow dispensing incomprehensible advice. It’s trippy, for sure, and in the best way.Read the full review here.

Photo: Joris van Bennekom

Double Double Act
A Unicorn production in association with Made in China/Reviewed at Unicorn Theatre/For ages 6+

Double Double Act’s weirdness and wackiness, at the risk of being inaccessible to adults, prioritises “the ones who pay attention” and allows them to respond and behave however they want… once seen it will never be forgotten. Read the full review here.

Photo: Camilla Greenwell

The Welcoming Party
Produced by Theatre-Rites, Z-arts and Manchester International Festival/Reviewed at 1830 Warehouse, Museum of Science and Industry as part of Manchester International Festival/For ages 8+

The Welcoming Party is a “were you there?” piece of theatre. Like Theatre-Rites’ first show 21 years ago, the ground-breaking site-specific production Houseworks, people will be talking about this phenomenal production for years to come, and a lucky few will be able to say they experienced it. You can read the full review here.

Photo: Sue Buckmaster

Little Red Riding Hood
A La Baracca production/Reviewed at Gala Theatre/For ages 3-8
A BonteHond production/Reviewed at Gala Theatre/For ages 2+
Both shows were part of TakeOff Festival

On Little Red Riding Hood: “The two-hander brilliantly captures the energy of childhood play, as the siblings’ attempts to retell the classic fairytale are interrupted by pillow-fights, plenty of chasing, and squabbles over who gets to play the wolf. Actually, the show seems to say, young people often engage in the type of experimental storytelling that many adult theatremakers covet: watching the siblings’ gender-defying, convention-flouting rendition reminded me of living-room performances that my family would put on.”

On iPet: Though it revolves around iPads, in many ways iPet is very traditional: a magic show with clowning from a comedy double-act, it is enhanced by an ingenious use of handheld devices. Often the conversation around technology and children is a fearful one, but this show demonstrates that digital doesn’t only have the capacity to suck us in and disconnect us, but to help us look outward and facilitate creativity. At the same time, iPet makes sure to cheekily allude to the ways in which technology has a hold on us, in a production led by two incredibly charismatic performers, Dionisio Matias and Michiel Blankwaardt.” You can read both reviews here.

The Man Who Knows It All
A Theater Artemis/Maas Theater co-production/ Reviewed at Unicorn Theatre/For ages 4-10

“The Man Who Knows It All is particularly appropriate viewing in the run-up to the general election, exposing and critiquing those who claim authority and expertise whilst at the same time avoiding and evading questions (though at least The Man Who Knows It All turned up). Though these audiences are too young to vote on June 8th, it’s encouraging to see that they don’t take much time at all to stand up for what’s right.” Read the full review here.

What Once Was Ours
A Zest Theatre and Half Moon Theatre co-production/Reviewed at Stratford Circus Arts Centre/For ages 12+

“The voices included in What Once Was Ours can be disparate and extreme, but if you listen, they’re often saying the same thing. There’s a shared sense of disillusionment and frustration, struggle and invisibility on all sides: a common place, the play seems to suggest, from which to build empathy. But this isn’t the only source of optimism: to be honest, what makes me really hopeful is that such a phenomenal piece of theatre has come out of such a monumental shit storm. Watching What Once Was Ours is fucking painful and completely exhilarating.” Read the full review here. 

Photo: Phil Crow

Snow White Rose Red
A Rash Dash production/Reviewed at Battersea Arts Centre/For ages 5+

“Feminist performance rockstars RashDash haven’t just turned their hand to making a kids’ show, they’ve kicked it in the bollocks in a fashion that feels fitting for 2017. In a year where high profile men have been booted off pedestals for sexual harassment and #metoo went viral, RashDash feel well placed to present something for children: Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalen’s vibrant, angry and energetic work so perfectly communicates that women are forces to be reckoned with – vocally, spiritually, physically.” Read the full review here.

Photo: The Other Richard

Santa’s Little Workshop
A Little Angel Theatre production/Reviewed at Little Angel Theatre/For ages 3-9

“For many, theatre is part of the Christmas tradition, with pantomimes or ballets like The Snowman and The Nutcracker appearing every festive period. Slavka Jovanovic’s production definitely deserves a place alongside them. While those productions, often staged end-on in large theatres, can be marvelled at from a distance, the intimate promenade experience of Santa’s Little Workshop invites its audience to directly immerse themselves in the magic. It’s the best and most Christmassy mini-internship anyone could ever wish for.” Read the full review here.

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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