During the long summer holiday it’s good to have a couple of treats lined up for the kids and these theatre shows are perfect for that. If you're a family that likes spending time outdoors, this summer you have the chance to catch some great theatre in some of London’s loveliest parks and gardens.
Wind in the Willows
Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆
Sixteen Feet Productions have been performing in the beautiful walled garden in Brockwell Park for a number of years. This summer they are touring their Wind in the Willows show to three other outdoor spaces in the capital. The Kenneth Grahame classic is perfect for a summer evening with its delightful tale of toad, ratty and mole set among the rose bushes of a magical English garden. Audience members are taken on an enjoyable guided stroll around the garden to follow the action. Anthony Glennon is brilliant as the boastful, bellicose Mr Toad and the rest of the cast manage to keep both adults and youngsters spellbound in a performance so engaging you feel you are part of the show. Guy Holden’s catchy folk tunes and the leather-clad wild wood punk band keep the adventure moving along brilliantly.
A double bill at the Puppet Barge
Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆
If talk of messing about on boats makes your family crave some real river action, the Puppet Barge offers the chance to experience storytelling on the water. The welcoming red and yellow converted riverboat is now in its summer mooring at Richmond and offers delightful puppetry for younger audiences. The show we saw was a double bill. The first half tells the tale of Captain Grimey, a mucky polluting sea captain who eventually sees the error of his ways, a seafaring theme that was perfectly accompanied by the gentle roll of the barge. After the interval The Three Pigs and the Wolf is a charming adaptation of a very familiar tale. The rod puppets were beautifully simple and managed to expertly capture the essence of the farmyard creatures and their emotions.
The theatre staff are adept at catering to the needs of very young children. Toddlers are not forced to sit still in silence – it's fine for them to gurgle, wriggle and nip out to the loo. In the performance we went to one baby slept happily in a carrier in a corner. One of the delights is seeing and boarding the barge itself. The vessel is a lovingly maintained 80ft iron Thames barge built in the 1930s and the cosy 50-seater interior is decorated with beautifully embroidered Indian marionettes. The Puppet Barge also does shows for grown ups, with their next adult show, End Games, exploring ageing and memory loss.
The current shows at the Puppet Barge continue until 9 August (the drifts down to Richmond until the 27 September with next children's show is Fowl Play). Tickets £8 children, £12 adults, £10 seniors.
Londonist saw both shows on a complimentary ticket.
By Alice Grahame