Our top 10 picks from 2018 encapsulate the huge variety of shows we’ve seen this year. There’s been immersive theatre, gig theatre, adaptations and musicals; shows about Elizabethan alchemists, dastardly doctors and cannibalistic neighbours; performed in all sorts of spaces, from libraries to a yurt, and from the West End to Watermans Arts Centre… Children’s Theatre Reviews is London-based, though every effort was made to see companies and work from across the UK and around the world – thank you to our Patreon supporters who help to make this site possible.
Wild Life FM
A Campo Arts Centre (Ghent), Unicorn Theatre, Norfolk & Norwich Festival Production in association with Gessnerallee Zürich/Reviewed at Unicorn Theatre/For ages 14+
“A prank call to Premier Inn, profound questions about representation, and fan-girling over Jon Bon Jovi: Wild Life FM crashes together, and switches between, different ideas like the stage is multiple tabs of the same browser. It’s disjointed, distracted, surprising, and over too soon, not unlike, it seems to suggest, being young in the UK today.” Read the full review here.
Doktor James’s Bad Skemes
The Giggle Goose & Sweet Venues/Reviewed at Vault Festival/For ages 6-11
“If you’re a fan of performers knowing their lines and not getting too sweaty under the lights, you’ll have a terrible time, but if you like watching two beardy men playing silly buggers, you’ll have a delightful time. I know which category I’m in – I love a good beard.” Read the full review here.
An Untied Artists production/Reviewed at Deptford Lounge/For ages 4+
“Library Lion is both a passionate love letter to libraries and an unconventional piece of interactive theatre.” Read the full review here.
John Hegley: All Hail the Snail (and Other Creatures)
A Half Moon Presents production/Reviewed at Watermans Arts Centre/For ages 7+
“In case this whimsical format makes me sound insincere,
or my crude attempts at rhyme make the meaning unclear:
Hegley’s bizarre, brilliant show is one of the best I’ve seen, and that’s why this
is all written in verse: he inspired me to try this.”
Read the full review here.
A Long Nose Puppets production/Reviewed at Watermans Arts Centre/For ages 2-8
“Penguin is evidence that love and craft can surpass any gimmicks and gizmos. The show, with its OHP projections and minimalist set, is delightfully old-school. There is a touch of the best classic children’s TV about Penguin: much of it has the gentle pace and soothing tone of Watch with Mother, and the grandfatherly narration of Bagpuss.” Read the full review here.
Shona Reppe, Christine Johnston & Rosemary Myers/Reviewed at Traverse Theatre as part of Edinburgh International Children’s Festival/For ages 7-12
“Baba Yaga weaves into this world a compelling reworking of the old Russian tale, all about rule-breaking, redemption, and personal fulfilment. The show brings out the tension between apparent witchery and wisdom, portraying an unusual kind of mutual empowerment, and keeping the audience gently unnerved throughout. Hilarious and thrillingly odd, Baba Yaga leaves you unwrapping its richness in hindsight, and desperate to try playing the recorder with your nasal passages.” Read the full review here.
We Come from Far, Far Away
An NIE (New International Encounter) production/Reviewed at Lauriston Hall as part of Edinburgh International Children’s Festival
“There are some shows that take the weight off your shoulders – in the inky blackness of the auditorium, watching a musical or a farce or whatever, you are hidden from your responsibilities for a while. And there are some shows, like We Come from Far, Far Away, that provide no cover: in raising awareness of its subject, the production makes the audience accountable for their response.” Read the full review here.
The Everywhere Bear
A Polka Theatre, Little Angel Theatre and Royal & Derngate, Northampton production/Reviewed at Polka Theatre/For ages 3-6
“The Everywhere Bear is gentle, twinkly, and magical, and one of the best hours I’ve spent in the theatre this year.” Read the full review here.
We’re Going On A Bear Hunt
A Kenny Wax Family Entertainment Ltd production/Reviewed at Lyric Theatre/For ages 3+
“The family’s adventure is constructed with the creativity and imagination of child’s play, and props and objects that could be found in a classroom or kitchen cupboard, requiring us to join in the game and suspend our disbelief. We may know that Dad (Thos Wainwright), Girl (Rebecca Newman), Boy (Joey Hickman) and Baby (a puppet made by Marc Parrett) are going to come to a river – a deep, cold river that they can’t go over, nor under – but how will they go through it? It’s almost as thrilling as the search for a bear; who would expect the cast to splash and splosh in real water, dancing with filled buckets on their feet, and squirting supersoakers out into the auditorium (we really are, all, going on this bear hunt)?” Read the full review here.
The Adventures of Curious Ganz
A little Angel Theatre and Silent Tide co-production/Reviewed at Little Angel Theatre/For ages 7 – adult
“But The Adventures of Curious Ganz is not serious and sad: in these dark times, it is just the light that we need. Though based on Ganz’s true life, the story takes a fictional, fantastical flight into whimsy that is completely delightful. Just as delightful are all the little items that create puppet Ganz’s 16th century world – piles of little texts and tomes, a little magnifying glass, a little guinea pig… if you’ve ever enjoyed a Tiny Kitchen video, you’ll love this. This is a masterful and enchanting production: The Adventures of Curious Ganz, described as being “wildly based on the principles of alchemy”, uses puppets and props to create gold.” Read the full review here.
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