holiday top

Ibrahim Ben Hadi as Jaz and Ceri Elen as Gabi on Sam Wilde's clever set


Derby Theatre Studio


So, we had the mermaid in the supermarket buying sausage rolls, books that turn into hot air balloons and a crab with a Spanish bent who clicks claws like castanets.

Not to mention rainbow ice creams, a beach, rock pools, a marauding seagull (who looked suspiciously like a book) and a spaghetti fight in a restaurant run by two grumpy chefs.

And this make-believe world all fits into a space no bigger than the average living room in a delightfully told tale in the intimate studio theatre.

Ceri Elen as Gabi and Ibrahim Ben Hadi as Jaz are bored. Whether the pair are friends, brother and sister . . . an item even . . . we are never told, but we are told by Gabi in no uncertain terms that she is bored.

Everyone is on holiday except her – and Jaz, as he points out indignantly– which sets in train a make-believe holiday in their simple room with its scattering of books and an old wicker basket . . . which, when the key is found, opens to reveal inside buckets and spades and swimming costumes form holiday’s past.

Which gives us the embarrassed, furtive sand dance of trying to don swimming gear unseen – or at least the bits that matter unseen behind a towel.

holiday beach

Gabi and Jaz in the land of sand

The clever set from Sam Wilde looked like an ordinary wooden floor except sections lifted out or trap doors opened up to reveal a hidden world with a beach, full of sand, rock pools and the like.

While books opened to reveal a hot-air balloon or the ocean – a silken screen to act as a scrim with projected fish and rays swimming around the stage and then, with a change of Arnim Friess’s intelligent lighting, we see Gabi and Jaz, behind, under the sea as mermaids.

There are moments of slapstick, such as the spaghetti fight, which parents and grandparents must have loved somewhat less than the little ones in the audience – like Peppa Pig and her muddy puddles it plants seeds in fertile minds.

Little ones don’t care though all they see is fun, whether it is a crab v lobster fight, or a spaghetti eating burping contest, or Gabi’s gastronomically expressive bum cough as the pair go to sleep – and don’t children love burps at either end!

Written and directed by Sarah Argent, Holiday is a gentle story, bringing all the elements of a seaside holiday to life as Gabi and Jaz tell their tales, and have their little squabbles, in a charming performance which draws children into their pretend world,

The effects are simple and remarkably effective, whether the clever balloon or the ice cream vanishing from the cones, but children have the best special effect of all, imagination, and this is a tale that carries them happily along, and at 55 minutes it is long enough to tell a story and be interesting, but not so long as to have children fidgeting with attention wandering – and there is a free ice cream with every ticket!

The suggested age range is under 6 but you can probably stretch that a little at the top end. My seven-year-old grandson, a seasoned theatre goer, enjoyed it, particularly the sections of stage lifting out to reveal new chapters, while grandson No 2; just three, enjoyed the projected fish and the mermaids.  To 05-08-18

Roger Clarke


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