REVIEW: In the Night Garden Live (Hackney Empire) ★★★★

Now in its tenth year, the new In the Night Garden Live show features all the favourites, Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy, Makka Pakka and friends in Igglepiggle’s Busy Day! This latest show is for all the family, featuring an array of music, familiar character sounds, puppets and costumes as well as a flying surprise.

We saw the show with our 8 month old at the Hackney Empire which is a beautiful setting for whatever show it hosts; a grade II* listed building the lavish theatre was built as a music hall in 1901, designed by the architect Frank Matcham. It feels intimate and we’re close to the stage and the full trippy night garden experience. There is a wide selection of merchandise as you’d expect and we loved the Iggle Piggle spinning light in the dark of the auditorium.

The show itself appeals to children of all ages, the baby was entranced for pretty much the entire hours show which is no mean feat for a young child – I didn’t expect him to engage with it but he really did, and the appeal of the show both on tv and live is shown by the large age range of the children in the audience. This was also one of the most diverse theatre audiences I have seen in London which shows its appeal and accessibility. It’s noisy and relaxed and everyone is having a great time, with cheers and gasps when the air ship Pinky Ponk floats over our heads.

In the night garden has tapped into exactly the bright coloured, noisy surrealism that catches babies’ interests and the show translates this brilliantly onto stage, using a mix of small puppets (their puppeteers blending into the green background in bright emerald green suits and bowler hats) and actors in full costume to move between perspectives. We get the close up characters, and also the feel of the wider full garden. All the characters are covered, the big hitters are covered as above, and we also see the tiny Pontipines at home, the Tombliboos and their drums and the Ninky Nonk as well as it’s flying cousin.

If you’ve got kids who like the tv programme, it’s definitely worth a visit to the in person show. It’s fairly reasonably priced and kids below 12 months are free. It’s a great way to give your kids their first theatrical experience at an early age and in a beautiful setting.

Reviewed by Ana Von Dienstag


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