Pros: Absorbing, imaginative, magical and unique. It’s great fun for kids and adults alike so perfect for a festive family outing.
Cons: The show is advertised for ages 6 – 11 but if you have kids at the top end of that bracket then they may find it all a bit beneath them and seriously uncool.
This was my first visit to the Battersea Arts Centre and I was a little wary of being a lone adult attending a family show. From the moment I stepped through the entrance door there was a welcoming buzz and despite being without a little person I was impressed with the great organisation. I was provided with a team number and directed to the coat check. This was busy but well prepared for gathering all the paraphernalia necessary to a family outing.
The assembled throng were greeted and directed up the stairs to a main hall to be seated for the introduction to the adventure. We met George Neighbour and his friend Monique who deftly set the scene and explained the challenge ahead. Next we were split into ten teams in order to explore the BAC and try to find out George’s story. Each team was provided with a guide; my team was put in the charming hands of Matt who was great with the kids and adults alike.
The teams set off in various directions, aided with clues that were discovered along the way. I was amazed at the imagination and ingenuity that had gone into the experience. We explored the corridors and crannies of the rambling old building and along the way we wrapped presents and exchanged gifts via secret compartments. We created electric light with the help of some talking light bulbs (very safe!), we crawled through a tunnel into a ‘beehive’ to meet the Bee Lady of Battersea and we put memories into jars in the Momentorium.
It’s not a great stretch to leave your adult persona outside and conjure up your inner child; young and not so young all happily adventured together. It was well paced and the children in our team never appeared bored but just totally absorbed by the sights, sounds and challenges.
At about halfway all the teams congregated again to plot their adventures on an enormous plan of the building laid out on the floor. Again everyone took to the activity with great intensity as they worked out their routes and drew what they had discovered before the teams were despatched on the final leg of the journey. We finally all gathered together to figure out the puzzle. George (Tom Bowtell) and Monique (Duchen) were brilliantly entertaining but, as always, the children stole the show. The experience was brought to a close with a party complete with spinning glitter ball, cheesy festive music and everyone showing off their dance moves.
Despite the evening show kicking off at 7pm and finishing around 9.15pm I didn’t see any over-tired tears, tantrums or grumps. Everyone had a great time and departed with seasonal cheer and cries of ‘Merry Christmas!’On a practical note some families
may want to pre-book a meal in the café before the show. The menu looks tempting for both kids and adults (£4 and £8 respectively) and desserts are available at the café/bar from £2.25 including Christmas pudding with brandy custard, warm mince pies, gooey chocolate logs and mulled wine.
Adults are encouraged to adventure alongside their kids but they are also able to opt out and leave the kids in the capable hands of the team leaders for the duration of the show. (I would strongly encourage you to go along!) During matinees those with children aged 0-5 can go with them to the Bee’s Knees indoor activity area. (£2.50 entry fee per child until 2pm; adults and under 1s are free).
The Good Neighbour has been developed in collaboration with artists and is part of BAC’s Family Theatre programme. There is also a bespoke, adult only version with a similar experience but with the addition of a secret new room, ‘adding a new dimension to the story of George Neighbour.’
Authors: Sarah Golding and Ruth Dudman
Devised by: Sarah Golding, Tom Bowtell, Monique Duchen and Ruth Dudman
Box Office: 020 7223 2223
Booking Link: https://www.bac.org.uk/bac/shows/tgn-christmas
Booking Until: 4th January 2014