Children’s Theatre Review – The Singing Kettle: Pyjama Party

Jan 23 2010 | By More

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Festival Theatre
Review by Thom Dibdin

Thank goodness for second halves. At the tender age of two, Young C is no stranger to theatre – nor, indeed, to singing along – but she was totally bemused by the opening half of the Singing Kettle’s pyjama party.

By the time the second half opened, however, C was clapping along with the rest of the kids and having a whale of a time.

The difficulty with the Singing Kettle is not what they do, but how they do it. Veterans of many Kettle performances will be quite familiar with their “spout, handle, lid of metal, what’s inside the Singing Kettle?” formula for introducing a new song into the show.

There was no real introduction to the formula for the newcomers, however. Nor, indeed to any of the new songs. Young C, already a little overwhelmed by the big garish bedroom set and Cilla, Artie, Gary and Kevin’a bright costumes, needed just a little coaxing and coaching into her enjoyment of it.

It seems that Singing Kettle cofounder Cilla, having tied herself to a lucrative and popular formula, is numb from repeating it a mind-boggling number of times over the years. Unfortunately, the trick of being a theatre professional is to make it seem fresh every time.

If she could do with nurturing her young audience, rather than corralling them into a pavlovian clapping response, there is no denying Cilla’s vocal talent. She gives herself plenty of tongue-twisting songs and knows exactly how to leed a chorus.

There’s also plenty of comedy and knockabout fun to the Pyjama Party. The four members of the Singing Kettle have to stay up all night to wait for Big Ted to arrive and mend all their broken toys. To help stay awake they sing a number of their own compositions and a few popular nursery rhymes.

Newest member, Kevin, is a really strong entertainer when it comes to keeping a young audience going. He has a strong physical presence, good comic timing and his enthusiasm is truly infectious. He’s also able to float a few jokes over the young-ones’ heads, just for the adults, which is a real bonus.

Artie, Cilla’s cofounder of the company, provides a solid sidekick to  Kevin’s bounce. Behind the front trio, Mr Music Man Gary keeps the rhythm going and is a foil to the others’ comic capering.

A solid new production from the Singing Kettle which doesn’t waver far from a formula that has grown closer to pantomime than anything else over the years. There’s a couple of new songs, some old favourites, Bonzo the dog makes an appearance, a handful of kids get to go up on stage and there is a strong kitchen routine from Kevin and Artie.

What ever anyone’s criticisms of the Singing Kettle might be, they have got a stunning formula. They sustain themselves on live performance without aid of either government subsidy or television tie in. Which is a truly phenomenal and laudable achievement, particularly in today’s television-orientated society and economic climate.

More to the point, the kids love it, and at an hour and three-quarters, there’s plenty of time to learn what to do.

Run continues to Sunday 24 January 2010


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