Based on the Ragdoll television series created by Andrew Davenport. Lowry Lyric, 28 Feb to 2 March then touring, including Floral Pavilion (Wirral) 4 & 5 June; Palace Theatre Manchester, 28 & 29 August, and Grand Theatre (Blackpool) 7 & 8 September
1hr approx (no interval)
An enduring success on the small screen for well over a decade, In The Night Garden’s first ever theatre show enjoyed its tour premiere at The Lowry this week.
While it is the brand’s first theatre show, it has of course been a summer staple around the UK for a few years, setting up its self-contained ‘showdome’ at places like the Trafford Centre.
But now the production and brand have been adapted to tour theatres, giving fans the chance to enter the Night Garden by a more familiar theatre setting.
This has the immediate bonus of being able to sit in designated seats rather than turning up to queue - the showdome has unallocated seating. And it absolutely feels a more intimate experience than watching in a slightly impersonal pop-up venue.
The new production, Igglepiggle’s Busy Day, is written by Helen Eastman and recreates the whimsical Night Garden and all its favourite characters, as well as having perhaps the most cuddle-worthy costumes ever seen on stage.
There’s a definite - if somewhat incongruous - thrill in hearing the regal tones of Derek Jacobi echoing around the Lowry’s Lyric Theatre auditorium. As with the television show, the legendary actor provides the narration.
This is clearly a lovingly-made and thoughtfully-created show, with the Night Garden world and characters beautifully realised and brought to life with a mix of life-size costumes, scaled down puppets and videos.
Samuel Wyer’s set looks to have no expense spared, all grassy knolls and twinkling lights, and has plenty of familiar elements you’d expect to see - from Upsy Daisy’s megaphone to Makka Pakka’s soap and sponge!
Praise must go to Vinnie Monachello and Victoria Jane absolutely perfecting Igglepiggle and Upsy Daisy’s physical mannerisms - identical to those seen on the small screen, thank goodness!
There’s also a number of green-clad, bowler-hatted puppeteers who are rarely off stage. They do great work, hitting the right balance between not distracting from the ‘stars’ as well as raising smiles themselves with their enthusiasm and charm.
The witty, teeny-tiny Pontipines family of puppets prompt chuckles as they bob about the stage - and all over their puppeteers.
In fact all the puppet versions of the characters seemed to have the ‘awwwww’ factor - especially for my four year old. And I think only the hardest of hearts would fail to be moved by the audience response to the first appearance of the characters on stage.
My only real gripe was allowing photography during the production - a distraction even in a family-friendly and relaxed affair such as this. Flashes were not turned off despite the pre-show request.
If you missed it at the Lowry then In The Night Garden Live is returning to the North West a few more times, including the Wirral, Manchester and Blackpool (see top), so there are a few more chances to set sail to the Garden in the Night...