ben holly

Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom Live

The Alexandra Theatre


It is all to easy forget that children’s shows are the lifeblood of theatre. Get it right and the magic might stay with a youngster for life – the next generation of theatregoes – and Ben and Holly hit the right notes for their target audience of pre-schoolers.

The favourite characters are there with Ben Elf (Melanie Ann), Princess Holly (Lauren Martin), Nanny Plum (Eleanor Aldridge), Lucy (Brooke Aylen) and King Thistle and Wise Old Elf (both played by Matthew Brock) along with, on his castors, Gaston the ladybird.

It is a perhaps a little disconcerting for adults to see characters in large puppet heads with mouths that never move, but children don’t care or even notice, this is their TV show brought to life.

The setting is big, colourful and simple with clever touches such as flats unfolding like a book to create, for example, Gaston’s messy, smelly cave or King Thistle’s palace while the special effects, simplistic to say the least, are remarkably effective, particularly as

the youngsters it is aimed at already have the best special effect of all, imagination. So, to them, Nanny Plum really is using magic to make all Gaston’s mess fly into the dust bin, while the giant Lucy in the big world is shrinking beneath her douvet – a sheet rising up from the stage.

To the the jelly flood is not two red sheets being raised across the stage, it is yet another jelly flood from a bit of Nanny Plum magic that is not quite right as they prepare for King Thistle’s birthday party.

There is one bit the children really loved which was a flying sequence using clever lighting and models as tooth fairy Nanny Plum, Lucy, Ben and Holly flew back to the little kingdom with Gaston. Again, very simple, and very effective.

The show is not too long, two half hour acts, with an interval, which is about right, ending before attention wanders, and it has plenty of songs and audience participation to keep youngsters involved, which did produce a classic moment when our intrepid band asked if the audience would help them with a cheer or some such.

“Will you help us?” . . . “No” came the loud voice of a little girls near the front. and a little girl’s voice at the front was heard to shout “No”.

For pre-school fans of the show, it is a little bit of colourful, theatre magic bringing characters they know from TV to life on the stage and from the smiles and chatter as children left – it had done it’s job.

Roger Clarke



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