Family Arts Correspondent
1:05 PM 30th October 2019
Four Joyous Family Shows At Newly Reopened Leeds Playhouse This Season
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show. Photo by Pamela Raith Photography
The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show seamlessly weaves several of Eric Carle’s best-loved picture books into a forty-five-minute delight for young audiences.
Created by Jonathan Rockefeller, it is told through rhythmic puppetry, with 75 individually-made puppets of varying shapes and sizes, criss-crossing the stage, at times exuberantly or sedately, as the classic stories are brought to life.
The Show begins with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See, before transitioning into 10 Little Rubber Ducks, The Lonely Firefly and, last but by no means least, the much-anticipated The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Throughout the show that I saw at Leeds Playhouse, the quietly-hypnotic, very gentle music was unsurprisingly itself accompanied by a chorus of laughing, giggling, gasping and, at times, howling from enthralled pre-schoolers in the audience (mine, mercifully, not the loudest).
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A show dedicated to the stories of Eric Carle was always going to feel very special. After all, many of his best-loved works, including The Very Hungry Caterpillar, were produced during the 1960s, meaning that they hold significance and childhood memories for parents in the audience as well as the youngest generation. Indeed, 2019 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of that eponymous work by the multi-talented American author.
Part of the joy of experiencing a story by Eric Carle – as well, of course, as the mesmerising quality of his collage-style illustration, the characteristic colour palette – is the simplicity of his words, oft-repeated and remembered. I could even hear young members of the audience, tiny dots of three-year-olds, speaking along.
Following a £15.8 million capital investment to ensure that the pioneering theatre in Leeds is now fully accessible and a delight to behold, it is doubly exciting to see this early focus on the Arts for families. Leeds Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said “The transformed Leeds Playhouse marks the most exciting new chapter in our history for decades” and emphasised the organisation’s desire to “offer the magic of theatre to everyone, all under one roof.”
Family shows like this certainly further this aspiration. The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show is a truly relaxed experience for the audience, a creative and joyous display of puppetry and it is worth remembering that these early theatre visits can be truly formative in young people’s lives, unlocking an exciting world of creativity, storytelling and performance.
Later this week, Freckle Production present Tabby McTat, adapted from another well-known children’s book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Tabby is a cat with the loudest of meee-ews and a best friend Fred - with his guitar (the type of friend we all need). What will Tabby do when Fred goes missing one day? This poignant tale is suitable for children from birth and can be seen from 31 October – 2 November.
There’s also a brand-new story from Curly Tales, in association with Leeds Playhouse, which promises to be an entertaining interpretation of another classic story. With puppetry, songs and original live music, Jackie and the Beanstalk is suitable for families with over 3s with performances on 8 and 9 November.
Later in the month, The Wizard of Oz, directed by Artistic Director James Brining (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Into The Woods, Sunshine on Leith), will be reminding audiences that “there’s no place like home” from 20 November – 25 January. Soar over the rainbow, follow the yellow brick road and skip into the Emerald City – there’s even a special singalong performance on 13 December. This spectacular musical will be suitable for children aged 7+
You can find out more and purchase tickets for performances at Leeds Playhouse by visiting www.leedsplayhouse.org.uk
Rosie Goodwin delivers a range of arts projects through her Yorkshire-based arts-engagement firm MakeMore Arts
, working with heritage organisations, schools, community groups and libraries.