Review by Natalie Shepherd
Last time I was in Wimbledon with Nat we were celebrating the end of term as Drama teachers, nowadays, as well as taking school trips, Polka Theatre Wimbledon is her go-to place for children’s theatre for her own children.
Quietly thought-provoking yet hugely engaging, Grandad me and Teddy Too is a heart warming piece of young children’s theatre which manages to entertain whilst sending some serious messages to both the young and the old alike.
From the moment the tiny theatre-goers enter the space, there is an atmosphere of excitement and expectation. The set, though simply designed with a white washed children’s bedroom, contains all the right toys to set young minds and hearts alight. From the ‘clickety clackety’ duck to the light up globe, imaginations are fired and the excited ‘woo’ as Grandad’s face (including sweaty nose) pops onto the computer screen on Skype firmly confirms this.
Grandad me and Teddy Too gently explores the relationship of five year old Mia with her Grandfather who lives in Argentina. The opening scene sees Mia crossing off the number of sleeps remaining until Grandad visits, building the tension successfully. Familiar and secure rituals are played out with Grandad having to kiss all the toys good night each time he and Mia chat and on the final night before his arrival there is a magical moment where the globe lights up and the toy aeroplane whizzes overhead to signal his greatly anticipated appearance. The warm yet slightly awkward first interchange between them has Mia exclaiming ‘you’re very big’ and Grandad retorting ‘you’re very small’, neatly reinforcing their close yet long distance relationship.
Further rituals are comically enacted as Mia invites Grandad to a special tea party with Teddy Too, where knitted cakes are passed around, presents exchanged and games played. The lively party atmosphere inside is contrasted by the outside space, which becomes a more contemplative place, magical even. The trees are lit up with fairly lights and a spider’s web glows frostily as music plays giving it an ethereal quality.
This sets the scene for their adventure to The North Pole which is wonderfully facilitated by a magic carpet. Their adventure comes alive with the clever use of music, movement, lighting and lovely shadow effects. The whole trip is topped off with snow which brings a smile to little faces and enchanted gasps of joy.
On their return to Mia’s bedroom, it is Grandad’s turn to initiate the next party and this one is a much less formal affair than the first. He has clearly passed the ‘fun test’ and a delightful sequence ensues which involves balloons being blown up and the air released in a cacophony of squeaky tweets leaving the audience in fits of giggles. But like all good theatre, the light hearted moments are juxtaposed with sadder ones. In this case it was Grandad’s announcement that he has to return to Argentina. Whilst Mia’s disappointment is clear, so is the bond they have formed and the next Skype call centres around a tea party with Grandad as guest of honour again, albeit from far, far away.
Grandad Me and Teddy Too was a delight; touching, yet not overly sentimental, relevant to young audiences today and highly entertaining. As the children left the theatre clutching their own teddy bears, there was a quietly happy feeling in the crowd.
Essential info – Grandad Me and Teddy Too
Age recommendation: 2 – 5 (Under 2s are also welcome. All children over 12 months require a ticket.)
Running time approx 40 minutes, no interval
Relaxed Performance Sat 6 Dec 12.15pm
Download the Relaxed Performance Pack here
Adult and Child Tickets £11.50 Concessions £9 (Concessions only available from the Box Office)
Polka Theatre Wimbledon I Until 8th February 2015 I +44 (0)20 8543 4888
“BRILLIANT… gentle and authentic… I can’t think of many pieces we’ve seen that have trusted and respected the young audiences quite so much”