Apr 8 2015 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩    Thrills spill

King’s Theatre: Sat 4 – Sun 5 April 2015

Thrills, spills and exotic undersea animals are all present as expected as the Octonauts take their audience on a Deep Sea Volcano Adventure to explore, rescue and protect.

With plenty of jolly songs and led from the front by live versions of six of the eight Octonauts – using a level of interaction which owes a debt of gratitude to pantomime rituals – this has all the makings of the perfect show. Indeed, greater attention to all the details would have delivered one.

Seven Octonauts: Dashi, Professor Inkling, Peso, Captain Barnacles, Kwazii, Shellington & Tweak

Seven Octonauts: Dashi, Professor Inkling, Peso, Captain Barnacles, Kwazii, Shellington & Tweak

The way into the adventure, through a new Cadet Luke who wanders round the audience before the show, is nicely done. Captain Barnacles is free to address his theatre full of Octonaut Cadets, who salute back with the shout of: “Aye Aye Captain!”.

The Cadets even get to steer. First the Gup-X and then the Octopod itself, thanks to interactive screens which show them which way to go – and lean.

Once underway, the adventure will be familiar to fans of the CBeebies show, as the Octonauts set off to save a blob fish called Bob from the lip of an undersea volcano, deep in the midnight zone of the deepest ocean. Also familiar will be Bob’s two brothers. Also called Bob.

Technically this should easily pass muster. Big screens replicate the familiar, boldly-drawn undersea world. The two non-vertebrate Octonauts, octopus Professor Inkling and the vegimal Tunip are puppets who make small but important contributions to the show.

When the Octonauts go off into the dark of the undersea world in their gups to rescue the animals endangered by the soon-to-erupt volcano, an ultra-violet black-light show comes into play – intriguingly showing the different gups rescuing the animals on which their design and construction is based.

a sense of scale

Puppets are also used judiciously when the Octonauts don their deep-sea suits and leave the safety of the Octopod. It works well to give a sense of the scale of the world they are exploring and protecting. But, as the puppet versions of the Octonauts are true to the TV series rather than their live representations, it also highlights where the live show falls short in terms of the look of some of the characters.

And the versions as seen on CBeebies

And the versions as seen on CBeebies

The problem for the show’s makers is that these are cartoon versions of animals. For the likes of polar bear Captain Barnacles, Kwazii cat and the dog, Dashi, this is not too much of a difficulty. Peso the penguin, however, is pretty much unrecognisable from the TV version. He would work if you are new to the show, but aficionados will have a bit of difficulty coming to terms with his elongated body.

If the look of the characters is constrained by human physique and what can reasonably be done with a full body costume, the sound of the characters is a lot more in the control of writer and director Richard Lewis and his casting agent Alison Booth.

And sadly Lewis and Booth have either not chosen appropriately or not paid sufficient attention to what the voices should sound like.

Peso, played by Michael Lapham, could have stepped out of a Spike Milligan impression – fans of the Goons will recognise him as Little Jim going “He’s fallen in the water” when Ned Seagoon has done just that thing. Whereas Luke Lennox appears to have been using Groundskeeper Willie from the Simpsons as his template for the voice of Shellington.

Captain Barnacles needs a sense of gravitas, a big powerful voice which is both attractive and honest – without being too fierce. Ben Thornton just uses too much of his upper register to attract the authority of the original.

a scaredycat behind all his bravura

But it is in Kwazii that most is wrong. Paul Lawrence Thomas gets the joke that he is a scaredycat behind all his bravura, but to do so, plays him with an annoying little mince to his gait, and makes him speak as if he was ready to join Mr Humphries behind the counter in Are You Being Served.

Luke Lennox as Cadet, Dashi with Peso, Captain Barnacles, Tweak and Kwazii

Luke Lennox as Cadet, Dashi with Peso, Captain Barnacles, Tweak and Kwazii

Those paying close attention to the script will find the odd little annoying quirk. Such as when Tweek’s Giant Tortoise finder is dismissed as finding cats, not tortoises, (Kwazii is unwittingly sitting on a sleeping tortoise), there’s no resolution of the truth.

And when the Octopod is finally escaping from the midnight zone along a path of glowing starfish, instead of taking a perfect opportunity to let the audience drive it out of danger, the whole production finishes with a rush.

Young Octonauts fans will come away somewhat awestruck by their undersea adventure. It’s just that having put the building blocks in place, the show has an annoying tendency not to use them.

Running time 1 hour 20 minutes (including on interval)
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street EH3 9LQ
Saturday 4/Sunday 5 April 2015.
Company web page: http://octonautslive.co.uk/


The Octonauts on tour 2015:
April 4 – 5 EDINBURGH
King’s Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
April 8 – 9 ABERDEEN
His Majesty’s
01224 641122 Book online
April 11 – 12 DURHAM
Gala Theatre
03000 266600 Book online
01902 429 212 Book online
April 18 – 19 SOUTHAMPTON
Mayflower Theatre
02380 711811 Book online
April 21 – 22 TRURO
Hall for Cornwall
01872 262466 Book online
April 25 – 26 BRISTOL
0844 8713012 Book online
April 29 – 30 SWANSEA
Swansea Grand Theatre
01792 475715 Book online
May 2 – 3 LONDON
New Wimbledon Theatre
0844 871 7646 Book online
May 13 – 14 ST ALBANS
01727 844488 Book online
May 16 – 17 MANCHESTER
Opera House
0844 871 3018 Book online
May 20 – 21 GLASGOW
King’s Theatre
0844 871 7627 Book online
May 23 – 24 LOWESTOFT
Marina Theatre
01502 533200 Book online
May 27 – 28 SOUTHEND
Cliffs Pavilion
01702 351135 Book online
May 30 – 31 SWINDON
Wyvern Theatre
01793 524481 Book online
June 3 – 4 BRIGHTON
Theatre Royal
0844 871 7650 Book online
June 6 – 7 LONDON
Hackney Empire
020 8985 2424 Book online
June 10 – 11 SHEFFIELD
0114 249 6000 Book online
June 13 – 14 KING’S LYNN
Corn Exchange
01553 764864 Book online
June 17 – 18 HARROGATE
Harrogate Theatre
01423 502116 Book online
June 20 – 21 SOUTHSEA
King’s Theatre
023 9282 8282 Book online
June 24 – 25 WOKING
New Victoria Theatre
0844 871 7645 Book online
June 26 – 27 NORTHAMPTON
Derngate Theatre
01604 624811 Book online
July 1 – 2 LICHFIELD
Garrick Theatre
01543 412121 Book online
July 4 – 5 BLACKPOOL
Blackpool Grand
01253 290 190 Book online


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