Isn’t it time for… DUGGEE!
A chaotic and funky show that is sure to delight the squirrels in the audience!
Tickets gifted in exchange for honest review.
Confession: for about two weeks prior to the show, I have been partly force-feeding Ines, 18 months some Hey Duggee episodes to get her fully interested in the show. Considering the main character is a loveable dog, it should pull right into her interests, but funnily enough, she’s just never been the biggest Hey Duggee fan. Regardless of the fluorescent colours, heartwarming lessons, the cute squirrels, A DOG, or the catchy songs, she just wasn’t vibing to ‘Raindance‘ and other Hey Duggee hits as much as I was!
Which did make me wonder how she would take to the theatre show…
Now, Ines loves the theatre. She will sit and watch an entire pantomime and clap along. She loved Mog and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. So, in theory, she was going to be immersed in it. But, Ines has also recently become apprehensive and a little scared around characters and having recently met and been afraid of a Duggee at a children’s party, I did wonder!
Turns out, I had nothing to worry about and the show co-adapted by director Matthew Xia and Vikki Stone was a delightful and fun show that was filled with psychedelic colours and bursting with song and dance. Ines was fully immersed in the whole thing clapping, waving and doing her cute little hand scrunches when she wanted to hug Betty (a purple octopus for those not familiar with Hey Duggee!).
At the entrance, you’re handed a sticker sheet with badges for the children to earn throughout the show. This one is just for kids though, sorry adults! Just like the end of every Hey Duggee episode, the squirrels (the knee high animals that attend the clubhouse!) which now includes the kids in the audience get to earn their badges: The Egg badge; the A Capella badge; the Space badge; the Costume badge, the Choreography badge and, ultimately, The Theatre badge!
Ines especially enjoyed collecting the space badge, watching the light show across the stage and meeting the variations of aliens that appear on route. She loved seeing the giant planets floating around the audience and the out-of-this-world music. She also loved seeing the squirrels in their costumes, giving an audible ‘wow’ when the glitzy costumes came out. This was also where she was desperate to cuddle Betty!
Benedict Hastings, who is both narrator and Duggees puppeteer, is fantastic. Had you not known differently that Alexander Armstrong was the narrator of the TV series, you would question that Benedict is the narrator! He is both charming with his stage presence (not that the children noticed that!) and a calming and incredibly well-spoken narrator. A forewarning though, there will be times that you don’t hear the full story because there will be squeals and shrieks of excitement from the children, or cries, or people getting up to leave intermittently, which is to be fully expected!
The TV show is brought to life, just extended from 7 minutes to an hour with various segments. The squirrels, knee-high puppets which are expertly crafted are brought to life with: Betty (Sarah Palmer), Tag (Charlie Daniells), Roly (Clarke Joseph-Edwards), Happy (Kaidyn Niall Hinds) and Norrie (Jane Crawshaw) sound just like the show to my un-attuned ears and bring heaps of fun and energy.
Though, if the squirrels bring energy, then I don’t know what can be explained for Lunga Anele-Skosana who bursts on to stage with hyperbolic energy and enthusiasm. She filled the rest of the characters, though it was Mrs Weaver the beaver that Ines found great delight in.
I particularly enjoyed the musical theatre references that were slipped in, especially the ‘Defying Gravity‘ from Wicked, my favourite musical, reference during the Space badge segment, there was also a minor rendition of Les Mis‘ ‘I Dreamed a Dream‘ which coincidentally is Alex’s favourite musical. We were both very much into the show, singing and dancing along to ‘Stick‘ and ‘Step by Step‘ and ‘Raindance‘ which fortunately for us Ines is not yet embarrassed by.
This is a great sensory experience for babies and a wonderful production for toddlers and young children. It’s a fantastic way to introduce children to theatre and it’s clear to see why it won ‘Best Family Show’ at this years Olivier Awards. Overheard from the dad behind us ‘Isn’t this good!’ along with singing along to all the songs and pointing out ‘AYE LOOK IT’S HENNIE‘ clearly big Hey Duggee fans in their household and they loved it too!
Alex on the other hand was a bit more reserved about the show. “There’s some big Hey Duggee adults fans aren’t there? Like they knew it all”, “You mean, perhaps like us… with Bluey?”. “Yeah…” he laughs. Perhaps the big bright colours and non-stop energy was a bit much for daddy… but perhaps we don’t mention that he was panicking to get the badges into the programme as though he couldn’t do it at his own pace and wasn’t singing and dancing along for the most of it…. but maybe that’s what Hey Duggee does. It drags you in for a wild magical ride and then that illusion wears off as the clubhouse doors close!
Although Hey Duggee and the squirrels have already packed up from Curve, Leicester – the good news is that they will be back in the Midlands shortly. If you missed out on this occasion, Hey Duggee will be playing at Nottingham Theatre Royal from 1-6 May 2023. The train station right near the theatre or there’s parking (bookable in advance) a stones throw away.
A highly recommended family show which is ideal for young children!
Curve Theatre, Leicester 14 APR – 15 APR
Running time: 55m no interval
Age Recommendation: Suitable for all ages
With thanks to Rhodes Media.
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