Review: Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom

The stage adaptation of the popular kids' TV show at Blackpool Grand Theatre, 16 Feb

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Half term in the middle of winter can be a difficult one to fill with stimulating activities, and limiting screen time to the one or two hours a day recommended is likely to go to pot. Without moving them too far out of their comfort zone in front of the TV, young audiences in Blackpool delighted at the stage adaptation of the popular series from the makers of Peppa Pig, Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom.

The Elf Factory has been successfully touring adaptations of both shows for some time, but in terms of costumes at least this one translates better. Actors wore oversized character heads that appear to have evolved from earlier shows where the mouths moved to less creepy effect. Tiny, fluttery wings impressed grown-ups as well as children.

A simple plot rolled out tropes from the TV show – magic gone wrong, jelly floods, sarcastic comments from the cynical Nanny Plum – and some well-known songs. But there’s enough original content and songs so accompanying parents don’t feel they’re watching yet another repeat.

The magic tricks – turning invisible, turning boy into frog, rapid hair growth – were translated simply yet effectively. Young viewers seemed to happily accept a large piece of red fabric was a flood of jelly, for example.

The actors did a great job of emulating the voices of the TV characters, adding to the familiarity that makes this show such a hit with young children. It’s not the most innovative piece of children’s theatre and parents are unlikely to get much out of it but you can’t argue with something that gets your children up off the sofa to dance in the aisles.

Ben & Holly are touring until summer, visiting Buxton Opera House 1-2 March, Crewe Lyceum Theatre 4-5 April, New Brighton Floral Pavilion 13-14 May and more.
Blackpool Grand Theatre has a range of children’s shows coming up: Mr Bloom’s Nursery Live on 12 March, Northern Ballet’s Goldilocks & The Three Bears on 30 March, an adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel Running Wild on 4-8 April and more

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