This morning I took Lilly to see In The Night Garden Live, at Sefton Park in Liverpool.
I booked the tickets a few months ago, when I was still working before Isla was born. The ticket prices were dependent on the time and date you wanted to see the show – and in my wisdom I decided that the 9.30am showing, when tickets were just £5 each, would be the perfect one to take our toddler and four week old baby to!
Fast forward a few months and it became obvious that the four of us were never going to get anywhere by 9.30am – in fact the earliest we have managed to leave the house all together since Isla was born is 11.15am!
So, we decided it would be much more realistic if I went with Lilly, leaving Tony at home minding Isla.
The show was set in its own giant tent / inflatable arena in the middle of Sefton Park – think giant white igloo. You had a choice of two different shows – Pinky Ponk or Ninky Nonk… we chose Pinky Ponk, cos that’s the way we roll!
We actually managed to arrive 15 minutes before the doors opened – but it was raining so we stayed in the car until 9am so that we wouldn’t get too wet (I told Lilly I’d forgotten to bring an umbrella – she replied: “I’ll squiggle you one mummy” – probably symptomatic of too much CBeebies over the past 4 weeks!)
We queued for about 5 minutes. Once inside, there are two main areas – the foyer with refreshment sales and merchandise stall, and the “theatre” itself. Although we didn’t need to partake ourselves I was quite impressed with the refreshments that were on offer – very toddler friendly things including Dairylea Dunkers, Mini Milks and fruit shoots as well as healthy sounding sandwiches and wraps. And all pretty cheap too – Mini Milks were 50p and I think sandwiches started about £1.65, not bad.
Before going into the theatre, I tried to persuade Lilly to go on the toilet – as we are slap bang in the middle of toilet training. Unfortunately, the toilets were the trailer ones – a step up from portaloos but only just! To be fair they had provided toddler seats and steps to help them reach the sinks in every one, but Lilly needs a lot of persuasion to sit on a ‘big toilet’ at the best of times, and these facilities just didn’t cut the mustard! The cubicles were also very very small – difficult for me and Lilly to both fit in – impossible if you had two children with you! After a while, and when even the offer of chocolate failed, I gave up trying to get Lilly to go and we went to find a seat.
We sat on the very top row as it was quite full when we got in, but we had a great view. The stage was set with a huge ITNG storybook, the top of the magic gazebo and some trees, with the Pontipines house stage right.
As the lights dimmed and the theme tune started up, the stage and all the walls of the arena turned into stars, then those all familiar blossoms blooming, before a very impressive live version of Iggle Piggle sailing on his boat on the sea, which got a lot of gasps. Sad, I know, but it actually made me feel a bit emotional – I just love the music from Night Garden, and, in my defence, I did recently have a baby – my hormones are still a bit wibbly!
The storyline unfolded just like an episode of In The Night Garden – so, as is traditional, nothing much really happened! Makka Pakka wanted to clean some faces – accidentally sent his sponge flying – it lands in Upsy Daisy’s megaphone – she returns the sponge to Makka Pakka and all is well. (Sorry if I’ve ruined the ending for you there!) But, what were you expecting – the Matrix?!
Makka Pakka was the first character to appear to cheers, shouts and claps from both the toddlers and parents (it was hard to tell who was more excited, in some cases!). I have to say that Lilly was pretty spellbound, which just made my heart melt… And when the narrator announced that Makka Pakka was looking for some faces to wash, I said to her: “Would you like him to wash your face?” thinking she’d say “no”, but in fact she thought that sounded really fun and was shouting to Makka Pakka “Come up the stairs, Makka Pakka!”
Us Night Garden fans know that the sense of scale is all over the place in Night Garden, and that Makka Pakka is much smaller than Upsy Daisy and Iggle Piggle and so are the Tombliboos. They got around this by having different size Makka Pakkas – a big one for when it was only him on stage, and a small one worked by puppeteers when he was with the other characters. It was very cleverly done.
All in all it reminded me of impressionist mime meets a Take That concert, but for toddlers. They were unbelievable excited to see their “heroes” in the flesh, and all the old favourite songs got rapturous applause. Whenever a new character was introduced, they got claps and cheers - reminded me of Happy Days when the Fonz used to walk in the room!
And Lilly’s highlight was probably the bit where bubbles came down from above and covered the audience!
We did have one slightly hairy potty training moment when Lilly announced three quarters of the way through “I want my potty”, but could not be persuaded to leave to use those “scary toilets”. She also wouldn’t go on them at the end of the show, nor would she use the actual potty when we got back to the car. Cue me driving like a maniac back home in case of hearing the phrase “I need a wee wee” while driving down the motorway! (Luckily, it never came – I now know that, when it comes down to it, she can actually hold her weeing urges for an impressive amount of time!)
But, for £5 a head it was SO worth it… for the look on Lilly’s face alone and as a nice introduction to live performance. Thinking of taking her to see Peppa Pig later this year now…