Today is a double whammy at Bristol Old Vic, as Cornish educator extraordinaire, Craig Johnson of Squashbox Theatre, delivers 2 different but equally entertaining shows.
Curious Creatures is aimed at kids aged five and over and is jam-packed with pretty much everything. Zoo attendant, Craig, has been left, unexpectedly, to oversee his Uncle Jeremiah’s Wildlife Park, while the older man is stuck somewhere in the middle of the Congolese Jungle. Trouble is that Craig is more used to cleaning up poo than administering any sort of care to the animals. That’s fine; he can call on a number of friendly experts to help out.
Cue a parade of wonderful puppets and (barely) disguised Craigs – experts on bugs, mammals, reptiles and those more unusual creatures, such as the Yeti and the Beast of Bodmin. Facts are given to us without the fear of overload and laughs are plentiful as humour is used throughout the 50 minute show – an audience-watering elephant who is scared of mice, alligators trained by humans, Brendan the super flea. Chaotic. The squeezebox comes out on a couple of occasions and the song Evolution causes my seven-year old to ask, “So, I was a jellyfish?”
After the performance, she wrote her own illustrated review. Accompanied by drawings of all manner of animals, including the ever-so-clever orang-utan, she says, “I loved it very much. I loved the part where the chicken was supposed to be scary.”
The second show of the day is Universarama, a journey through space, hosted by Professor Johnson of the Squashbox Theatre Astounding and Amazing Astronomical Research Society, or STAAAARS.
This is pitched at those of eight years and over and is faster paced than Curious Creatures. We get to study the solar system, our galaxy and the whole damned universe, meeting Astronomy’s historical figures, from Copernicus to Galileo to Newton, each one endearing and amusing. This is a mix of puppetry, music (accordion and ukulele), disguise and chat. A humble OHP with slides is used to terrific effect and we learn fair amount, both adults and kids. I know more about nebulae, the size of our solar system (illustrated to us with vegetables) and the death of a star than I did before the show plus I can tell you a Uranus joke or two.
Universarama really gets my daughter’s brain ticking. She chooses to draw as our one-man show darts around the stage, doodling pictures of emerging stars and the order of the planets as he disappears once again to transform himself into someone else. He must be bloody exhausted!
Craig Johnson is a talented natural teacher and oodles of fun. Go and see him!
Find out more about Squashbox Theatre here
Half-term Takeover runs at Bristol Old Vic until 3rd November
– Review by Becky Condron