THEATRE REVIEW: Peppa Pig’s Surprise @ Darlington Civic Theatre

Saturday 6th February
Review by: A.T. Hills
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As soon as children hear the distinct ‘Peppa Pig *snort*’ theme tune on the television, it sends them stir crazy with anticipation of the latest episode (or is that just my kids?) and the Peppa Pig live show at Darlington Civic Theatre at the weekend was no exception. The crowd wasn’t just alive with the sound of grumbling children, but was more of an electric anticipatory atmosphere as we eagerly awaited the big tummy of Daddy Pig and the wailing cries of Baby George and his scary green dinosaur to enter the stage.

With my eight and five year olds in tow, they were on the edge of their seats when the presenter of the show, Daisy, came out front and centre on stage in search of Peppa and her friends. With her child-friendly squeaky voice, jolly dance moves and early crowd participation, the kids (and probably some parents too!) were whooping and waving like crazy as Daisy tried to play hide and seek with Peppa, Susie Sheep and Pedro Pony. The premise of the show was that Mummy and Daddy Pig had a big surprise in store and the crowd joined in with the songs and dancing along the way in the build up to the big surprise.

Now one particular song about splashing in muddy puddles, which every Peppa aficionado will know is her favourite pastime, was accompanied by water jets at the side of the stage squirting the crowd in the stalls every time the word ‘splash’ was said – and let me tell you that there were quite a few! It made me glad that we had seats in the heavens because those poor people, however much they were laughing, must’ve had quite the soaking by the end of the routine. However, one downside to sitting up so high was that the illusion of the characters was spoilt a little, as you could see more of the puppeteers moving the characters around than you could see the actual characters. I think if I went again, I’d certainly sit at least in the lower tier, if not the stalls. But, the kids had a wonderful time regardless so I can’t complain at all.

There was one particular scene, when the family are spending time beside the sea, where the theatre was enveloped in black and UV lights and dancing fish, jellyfish and one particularly funny crab were flying around on the stage. After having returned from our family holiday to Walt Disney World in Florida late last year, this part of the show was very reminiscent of Disney’s Under The Sea show, which sees Ariel and her underwater friends dancing around on stage in UV lights. My kids absolutely adored this part of the show.

The whole thing lasted for an hour and a half, with a small interval, and all in all it was a really cute show for kids. Lots of crowd participation, songs (including the Peppa Pig favourite of Bing Bong Boo, sans Madame Gazelle sadly) that had the words on stage for everyone to sing along to, while Daisy the presenter made this a hit for the youngsters and their parents. In fact, my daughter whispered during the show and summed it up perfectly for me. She said: “Mamma, this show makes me so happy.” So there you have it: happiness personified by a five year old for Peppa Pig Live!

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THEATRE REVIEW: Land of Our Fathers @ Live Theatre, Newcastle

1st February 2016
Review by: Sam Grist for Cuckoo Review
Image: Polly Thomas
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A show about mining in the North East is always going to go down well, and I strolled up to the matinee performance of The Land of Our Fathers having been unable to get an evening ticket. It was an older crowd, due to the earlier start time, and I’m pretty sure none of us really expected to see the spectacle we had in store. Well, perhaps almost everyone as the gentleman sitting next to quipped to his wife “Welsh buggers down a mine, bloody hell there will be singing.” Practically not a second passed between that and the Welsh hymn sang to open the proceedings.

A play about six miners trapped in a mine, all of different ages, this was heart-warming, enjoyable, dark and tragic all at the same time, yet there is so much more to say about Chris Urch’s play. One of the more creative ways to use lighting in theatre was on display here, with very vivid, dark stage lights being applied to some scenes, while in others the stage descended into complete darkness. The meagre light reflecting off the actors’ hard hats was certainly intuitive.

Along with this, there were some fantastic acting displays and some wonderful writing on offer, particularly in the monologues towards the end. It added up to one vital theme that ran through this play from the first moment to the last: the feeling of being trapped. The overwhelming sense of being stranded underground with no knowledge of the outside world, being forced to live in close quarters with five other men was prominent throughout. This allowed the to flow drama as our character’s deepest secrets were revealed to the audience.

The use of so many different perspectives was a great touch. We got a sense throughout of each character’s views on politics, culture, society, community and more, and this really built up a picture of the time and place in which they live. We get the full range of experiences from our old and young cast, with one character on his first day and another just days off retirement. This added a number of different viewpoints but the same fears in terms of dying down in that cold, dark room. It’s such an emotive spectacle for the audience to see.

A wonderful play that has been building a head of steam for the last few years, a massive well done must be given to the production company behind it. It’s a definite must see just to understand exactly what the mining industry meant to industrialised sections of the UK in only the recent past.

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FILM REVIEW: Room @ Tyneside Cinema

Currently showing at Tyneside Cinema.

See more reviews by young people on Cuckoo Review.

Imagine being locked in a room for seven years, your only point of contact with the outside world being your abusive abductor. Imagine spending the first five years of your life trapped in this room, convinced that there was nothing outside. This is the story of Room directed by Lenny Abrahamson and written by Emma Donoghue, the author of the original novel on which it is based.

Room focusses on Joy Newsome (Brie Larson) who was abducted at the age of seventeen by Old Nick (Sean Bridgers) and locked in his garden shed. Joy has a five year old son, Jack (Jacob Tremblay) who is a product of rape by Old Nick. After seven years stuck in ‘Room’ Joy decides enough is enough and attempts to free them both from the confines of the hell in which they inhabit.

Understandably, this film is a difficult watch due to its extremely upsetting subject matter, but as it focusses more on the relationship between Joy and Jack, it is an ultimately rewarding watch. The fact that Old Nick is barely even in the film is a wonderful touch, as it helps presents the horror of the story in a more nuanced way, building a sense of dread, and making the film even more powerful in its attack. With so much left to the imagination, this film is mostly seen through Jack’s eyes, which, in parts, makes it all the more devastating, as he does not fully comprehend his terrible situation.

All the performances in Room are great, but the standouts are Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. Larson inhabits the character of Joy perfectly, realistically portraying her horrifying situation, while also nailing her adjustment to freedom in the second half of the film. Tremblay gives one of the best child performances I’ve ever seen, if not the best. His commitment to the role and the fact that his performance is wholly convincing is brilliantly captivating. He is definitely one to watch in the future. However, the best scenes are probably when Larson and Tremblay are together; their chemistry and bond is so strong that you could be fooled into thinking they are actually mother and son.

Being nominated for four Oscars and also picking up a few other gongs over the awards season, Room is clearly a triumph by both Abrahamson and Donoghue. With nominations including Best Picture and Best Actress in a Leading Role for Larson this film is definitely one to see. Do not be put off by the heavy subject matter, as this is unlike any other kidnap film, shifting focus to an extraordinary relationship between mother and son. It is an emotionally challenging film, but definitely rewarding in the end. Its nuanced nature is a masterstroke, creating one of the best films I have ever seen. Even though Room came out of nowhere, it is definitely going to stick around.


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