Last weekend we were invited to the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon to see In the Winter Wood, devised and performed by Jan Blake. When we arrived, the waiting area was adorned with lots of Christmas decorations and the children were immediately at home with the activities on offer to keep them busy. These included festive themed colouring, dressing up and playing with toys suitable for all ages. This is a safe and welcoming environment for any parent whose children like to do their own thing but be close by. The Polka Theatre is one of the most family friendly theatres we have ever visited and we always really look forward to going there.
As the audience gathered, there was an announcement and Jan herself came out of the back room area and encouraged all of the children to gather round her. She was immediately engaging and friendly, making sure that all the children were focussed on her before leading them all into the intimate Adventure Theatre. The adults followed and as we entered, we were given fleece blankets to snuggle down with, which really helped to set the mood of the performance. Jan was helping people with where to sit, on wooden bench style areas which appeared to be part of the set, a clearing in The Winter Woods. There was also tree stump style stool in the middle with the beginnings of a frame of a house towards the rear of the clearing.
Once people had settled down, the story telling began. Jan was very likeable as a performer and had the children engaged from the start. Her voice was loud but welcoming, clear but soft. She encouraged the audience to participate with simple rhymes as the story of Pig and Goat unfolded, telling their reasons for running way from their farm to build a new house in the Winter Woods ( and yes, this involved fattening up and dinnertime!)
With each story, new characters were introduced through Jan’s narrative who added their own experiences. And as each animal told a story, the day ended with a new piece of the house being built and the animals looking back and reflecting on their days work. The show finished with a wonderful snow shower from the ceiling above, which added to the overall Winter Woodland theme.
Jan was an excellent performer and held the stage for almost an hour on her own. The audience were riveted and children shouting out answers or singing didn’t phase her at all, in-fact it was encouraged! She made them part of the story and everyone was included in the fun.
The children came away with lessons about friendship and teamwork and were singing the stories and rhymes for the rest of the weekend. It was such an immersive show and a completely different theatre experience to ones they are used to. I think any child would love an hour in the adventure theatre! You can find out more about the show and full show dates and times here.
Disclosure: We were invited to the above performance for the purpose of this review however all opinions are my own.