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Theatre Square, Nottingham, NG1 5ND
0115 989 5555
31-Aug-14 to 31-Aug-16
Mon-Fri, Sat, Sun, Vary
The Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall are right in the heart of Nottingham City Centre and are both top Midlands entertainment venues. The Theatre Royal hosts a variety of touring shows, including West End Musicals, plays and national touring dance companies. Whilst the Royal Concert Hall plays host to a fantastic selection of orchestras, comedians and pop concerts.
Times and prices are subject to change. Contact venue before setting out.
The Theatre Royal invited us to see The Gruffalo's Child on Tuesday 5th April 2016. Our review team of two four-year-olds took their mothers along.
We faced a sparse set of winter trees and a full moon, adjusted to create the homes of every animal encountered on the Gruffalo's Child's journey from cosy cave to deep dark wood and back again. In keeping with the famous (and a favourite) book, with embellishments of song, dance and dialogue, the plot rewarded readers of both The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child, while not quite relying on prior knowledge.
The mouse introduced herself early, asking audience members what scared them, before taking the stage to address us all. A human in mousy attire, she was very much in control of proceedings and our compere throughout. The Gruffalo, massive but sedentary in his cave, related the tale of the Big Bad Mouse as a warning to his child, then snored and snored and snored while she sneaked out on her adventure.
The Gruffalo's Child was appealingly costumed, with purple spikes, claws and all but on a cutely human scale and with buckets of wide-eyed enthusiasm. Journeying into the deep dark wood, she met the animals featured in both books; the snake, owl, fox and mouse. Each involved her in their own activities before finally asking what she was doing and who her father was, then hurriedly sending her on her way, as her nature and appetite became obvious.
Presented by only three actors – mouse, child and ‘everyone else' – the stage was filled with song, dance and much dashing about. The lyrics required concentration to follow exactly in places and the detail rewarded older audience members. Younger and less-focussed ones could grasp all the storytelling essentials though, through the actors' tone, expressions and movement. We enjoyed lots of participation, as each animal asked us to do something with them – clap to music while snake danced, flap for owl's flying lesson, shout out and join in. Sections of familiar dialogue rooted us reassuringly in the books.
Lots of fun, “amazing” and our young reviewers' sense of anticipation was happily rewarded. A lovely afternoon out.
FD, WS, CS and CG for Mumsnet Nottingham
The Theatre Royal invited us to review Annie on Monday 21st March 2016.
My daughters, aged 4 and 8, did not know the story and although I am familiar with the character of Annie as a red-haired, feisty and endearing orphan, beyond that I had only vague recollections of the 1982 film version. I knew of it as one set in New York at the time of the Great Depression and the production succeeded in conjuring up atmospheres of the time and place which may have been experienced by people in all echelons of society: the orphans, the destitute, the fallen middle-classes, the monied and President Roosevelt's cabinet.
The show's opening scene introduces Annie and the other girls in their dormitory at spiteful Miss Hannigan's orphanage. The well-known songs ‘Maybe' ‘It's a hard knock life' and ‘Tomorrow' smacked a powerful punch in their delivery by 7 young actresses, eliciting our sympathies for our heroine Annie as we follow her story: dreaming of finding her parents, running away to search for them, refusing to be cowed by the horror and hardships of Hooverville, delighting in staying with billionaire Warbucks, moving him to help her search for her parents and, eventually, giving up her dream of finding them before, finally, gratefully, accepting Mr Warbucks as her Daddy.
The show was fast-paced, loud and clearly enjoyed by its audience, which was composed mainly of adults with only a spattering of children for this evening performance. It would probably be enjoyed most by children aged at least 7, or those already familiar with the story. Anya, aged 4, said ‘I liked the dancing and singing, and Daddy Warbucks, but the mother (Miss Hannigan) was scary'. Seija, aged 8, said ‘My favourite character was Annie and I liked that there was a real dog'. She followed the story without difficulty, responded by bopping along to the songs in the second half, appreciated both the humour and the professional demonstration of a wide range of dance styles – theatre craft, tap, classical and jazz – to which she is exposed through her involvement in the local dance school. We had a fun evening out!
CW, SD and AD for Mumsnet Nottingham
The Theatre Royal invited us to review Gangsta Granny on Tuesday 15th March 2016.
We were really quite excited to see this production, adapted from David Walliams' popular book, on its first theatrical tour. It seemed a good proportion of the older-primary-age population of Nottingham was excited too, as the theatre was packed. Quite a few children brought their grannies.
The story stars eleven year-old Ben, portrayed with suitable wide-eyed energy by Ashley Cousins, his ballroom-dancing obsessed parents and his kind but dull, cabbage-guzzling granny. Except that granny turns out to be anything but dull and Ben's years of dutiful Friday-night scrabble-playing are rewarded with a fabulous real-life caper.
Characters were cast and dressed in wonderfully cartoonish style, against a versatile set; smoothly adjusted between scenes by people ‘just passing' – a milkman, a lollipop lady, workmen, as well as main characters. Alison Fitzjohn, familiar from on-stage Horrible Histories – with which this shares an irreverent sensibility – brought delightful comedic grace notes to a sharply choreographed production. David Walliams' witty, punning, sketch-paced writing sparkles throughout. (Could Ben's longed-for career in plumbing possibly have arisen as a pun on ‘pipe dream'?). The impression was of a perfectly poised yet frenetic ensemble, with everyone rushing off and on again in something or as someone different, without ever distracting from the story.
The fun and fart gags mask a subversively pro-school message; Granny's tales inspire Ben to become a model student, when he connects classroom learning to a purpose. As well as pursuing his single-minded ambition to become a plumber, Ben might just do very well at school. Love learning, do what you love best and really get to know your Gran, are the messages that shine through this briefly poignant but consistently upbeat tale.
There was no lull and nothing dull in this fizzingly fast-paced family production. Our favourite parts were the heist itself, an appearance by the Queen and Raj / Flavio's transformation but there are so many to choose from and no let up in laughs. Entertaining from start to finish.
If you don't have your tickets already, only the barest scattering of seats remain, with the exception of Thursday morning. If you do, we think you'll have a lot of fun.
CG and CW for Mumsnet Nottingham
The Theatre Royal and Peppa Pig Live invited us to see Peppa Pig's Surprise! on Sunday 28th February 2016. Our just-four and nearly-four-year-old reviewers came well versed in the world of Peppa Pig.
The show opens with the familiar theme tune and Daisy, our energetic human host, welcomes us – as friends of Peppa's we're friends of hers. She's playing hide and seek with Peppa and friends, can we help find them? We quickly see Peppa, little brother George, Suzy Sheep, Danny Dog and Pedro Pony, as they dash in and out of their hiding places. What fun!
Peppa and friends are represented as cartoonish child-sized puppets, operated by subtly characterful puppeteers. Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig are proportionally large costumed characters.
We enjoy the rest of Peppa and George's day, as they chase George's hat, jump in muddy puddles and take a wonderfully bubbly bath. More bubbles needed? Daddy Pig is quite an expert but it's dexterous Daisy who runs across the stage distributing enormous bubbles into the audience, to the delight of children in the front rows.
Mummy and Daddy Pig promised a surprise – a trip to the beach! First, it's bed time, with a story from the Red Monkey Book; with a surprise!
The next day we experience a broken-down car, take part in a game of I Spy and arrive at the beach, where Daisy hands out buckets. Six of them, because, surprise! Peppa's friends are here too! Everyone helps cover Daddy Pig in sand. Peppa and friends look into rock pools and discover a world of wonder – starfish twirl, jellyfish float, shoals of fish and seahorses swim. Mr Crab snaps – and so can we.
Back on the beach who should appear but everyone's favourite health and fitness guru, Mr Potato! After extolling the virtues of smoothies (perhaps not with potatoes) Mr Potato invites us to dance. We try the moves slowly, then dance to the music, really fast! Can we dance faster, record-breakingly fast? Along with most of the audience, we were certainly willing to try!
Engaging, energetic, familiar and fun, with the most audience participation ever, Peppa Pig's Surprise! was keenly anticipated by our young reviewers and, what did they like best? All of it of course!
The theatre was prepared for an influx of children. Staff supervised a roped-off pushchair storage area and handed out booster seats (which had run out ten minutes before curtain up. For smaller theatre-goers, it's well worth getting these early). Ground floor men's and women's toilets include baby changing facilities and there are more upstairs. We ran the merchandise gauntlet on the way in and out – helium balloons are especially hard to ignore. Embrace or distract determinedly but it helps to be prepared.
FD, EU and CG for Mumsnet Nottingham
The Theatre Royal invited us to review Room on the Broom on Thursday 9th July 2015 at 1.30pm. Our three-year-old reviewer took along her mother and granny.
Adaptations are usually most interesting if you've read the book and that is especially true for young children. Anticipation; excitement tinged with trepidation (there's a dragon and a monster in this one), grows from familiarity. With this comes impatience, to get to the bits we know. As young children's adaptations require a lot of additional material - or we'd be in the theatre no more than ten minutes - the balancing act between authenticity and entertainment is always their test.
This production worked really well for a young primary-aged audience. The introductory camping scene was friendly, funny and shared a first-time theatregoer's sense of not being quite sure of their surroundings or what to expect, drawing them in with cheerful resourcefulness (and snoring). The actors' transformation into the witch and her cat, then the other animals, was suitably magical, the animals' assistants alternately acknowledged and blending in seamlessly. Yvette Clutterbuck's witch had a touch of ‘Miranda' about her, cheerily gung ho but accident prone, losing first her hat, then her bow, then her wand, before the weight of her helpful animal passengers caused her stick to break in two.
The cat was friendly and disdainful in fine feline fashion. The dog puppet was wonderfully waggy, the bird sweetly recognisable and the frog funny but with a southern American accent that didn't add anything for this audience. Storytelling was extended with songs, jokes and movement. The swamp monster was wonderful, the dragon fierce yet friendly. A school group in front of us sat very still, apparently enraptured throughout.
Songs and spells entertained our pre-schooler but we could have done with a bit more call and response or joining in to keep her fully engaged – perhaps more being made of the effort needed for the broom to take off each time. For her, the prologue was a little long and interest focused mostly on the introduction of each character and key plot points.
We all liked the witch and helped with her spells – Iggety, ziggety, zaggety, zoom! This was altogether a very warm and likeable production.
The theatre was well prepared for children. Helpful staff supervised a roped-off pushchair storage area and handed out booster seats. Ground floor men's and women's toilets include baby changing facilities and there are more upstairs.
FD, JD and CG for Mumsnet Nottingham
The Theatre Royal invited us to review Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom on Tuesday 19th May 2015. Our review team was two three-year-olds with accompanying adults.
This adaptation of the popular televised cartoon is produced by the same team who brought us Peppa Pig's Big Splash last year. The big bright set, happy music and cheery characters were similarly appealing, though this time played by actors, wearing puppet heads. Gaston the ladybird was a shiny dog-sized model and a magical flying scene utilised smaller puppets against a starry backdrop, to good effect.
The audience of pre-schoolers was curious, enthusiastic and often vocal. The production harnessed their voices and energy well, with plenty of call and response elements, songs and actions to join in with.
The plot was created out of a number of storylines, combined to create a very busy day. We played hide and seek with Ben and Holly, met a funny belching frog, welcomed Nanny Plum who helped tidy Gaston's cave and followed them all on a journey to collect a tooth from a girl called Lucy, who joined them in their kingdom after Holly performed some shrinking magic. We sang with the elf band, saw potion being prepared to cure the King's cold and joined in with his birthday party.
Familiarity with the characters made it magical and the interaction was fun but the episodic storyline made this hard to follow as a whole story, in contrast to Peppa Pig, which had assembled elements clearly leading towards a finale. Our reviewers' attention was retained throughout, just not always by the detail of the plot.
The theatre was well prepared for the influx of children. Helpful staff supervised a roped-off pushchair storage area and handed out armfuls of booster seats. Ground floor men's and women's toilets include baby changing facilities and there are more upstairs.
“Can we stay here?” and “Can we come next Tuesday?” seem pretty good endorsements from the reviewers who really count.
OD, LD, FD and CG for Mumsnet Nottingham
The Theatre Royal invited us to review The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas on Tuesday 17th March 2015.
A simple but effectively told fable, about how friendship, between two boys from opposite sides of the fence, can overcome difference. In this case, the fence being the barbed wire of a concentration camp and the boys nine-year-olds, innocent in every sense, friendship alone is not enough to change the course of history.
The story is told from the perspective of Bruno (played on press night by Cameron Duncan). We understand more from the adults' answers and behaviour than he does but we see and hear little that Bruno does not. A natural consequence is that the adults seem distant, distracted and a little caricature-ish; Bruno's Camp Commandant father serious and important, his mother flitting about the house, organising, pleading briskly for compliant behaviour. Teenage sister Gretel and maid Maria are more rounded but living in parallel worlds, across a gap of years.
Their distraction opens up space for Bruno's explorations, meeting and developing friendship with fellow nine-year old Shmuel (Sam Peterson on press night). The children were both fantastic, Bruno carefree and curious, Shmuel sweet and bright but resigned to accepting an existence he doesn't understand. It's the grown-up doctor-cum-waiter Pavel and youthful bully-with-a-secret Kotler who really convey, to us and to Bruno, how strange and wrong a change has taken place in the world.
The action, on a simple set, flitted back and forth in time during the first half, in a manner that confused temporarily, while seeking to convey Bruno's piecing together of how he'd arrived at ‘Out-with'. Otherwise, the character of Bruno's Grandmother in particular, brought to life the wider social and political context with magnificent simplicity.
Aimed at a teenage audience, the auditorium was packed, with many teenagers present. Tickets are scarce but, for a production that subtly challenges our point of view, rather than exploiting its young characters to sentimental ends, it's worth seeing.
CG for Mumsnet Nottingham
The Theatre Royal invited us to review To Kill a Mockingbird on Monday 23rd February 2015. Our reviewers approached the production with quite differing familiarity.
The play is presented as an ensemble performance, with members of the cast taking turns to read from copies of the book - different editions, in celebration of this story's reach and longevity - voicing ‘adult Scout's' reflective narration. This device allows a pacy performance to present the main events, without losing its depth.
Scenes were established on a simple set, impressively including a climbable tree. The child actors were well cast and wonderful, Connor Brundish's Dill delightfully resembling his literary portrayal. Our Mockingbird newcomers found the first act; the characters, southern accents and some delivery, required concentration, before events were resolved in the court scene. The denoument of Scout and Jem's ‘longest night' was played simply but powerfully. Boo Radley seemed suitably subterranean. Atticus was everything one expects Atticus to be; not glamorous but deeply dependable.
The performance felt celebratory, of a great story and characters, while remaining resonant as a tale of how comfortably people conform to social expectations and prejudice, bad actions escalate and few people do really good things - yet the ones who do can be quite unexpected. Its power is in inspiring us (especially us as teenagers) to wish to be one of those few.
J (15) says “I thought the cast were excellent. There was an offensive term used, which I was shocked by when it was first said, but I understand that this was a normal word which was used a great deal when the book was written, and my shock at its use just emphasises to me how much equality and respect have moved on. I haven't read the book, but I will now.”
This is a fabulous interpretation and a gripping performance, whether you're coming to the story for the first time, or the fiftieth. Many people stood to applaud. The theatre was full; few tickets remain. Buy them now.
JTB, JMB and CG for Mumsnet Nottingham
The Theatre Royal invited us to review Horrible Histories on the 19th November 2014.
Based on the books, this show had its own fast-paced, witty but distinctly playground sensibility. From the initial challenge, by the ‘Barmy Britain' men, to the ‘Great Britain' women, through Henry VIII as a spoilt child, an audience singing contest and a WWI wrestling match, there was a sense of joyous ‘I told you so' one-upmanship. A versatile company of four exhibited skilful physical theatre with pantomime elements, carrying us bawdily, with the inevitable fart and stool jokes, through a two hour performance.
A large screen took the place of a set. In the second half we were instructed to wear ‘sunglasses' and a 3D experience commenced, adding visual depth and sending; a pigeon, a plane, splintered wood and Elizabeth I's newly decomposed skull, flying towards us.
J (age 15) says "I really enjoyed this. It was funny, a lot like the book. At times I really got the toilet humour and the jokes, as did all of the other children (even the younger ones) in the audience, there were even jokes for adults as well so everyone was kept entertained. The use of graphics and props was amazing, it's the first time I've ever seen a play with a 3D screen. I'd absolutely go and see this again."
Jokes for all age groups – one of the cleverest things about the books and TV version – were played delightfully, referencing ‘Take Me Out', ‘TOWIE' and World of Warcraft. A ‘Who Wants to Blow up Parliament' Guy Fawkes special and Queen Victoria rapping and break-dancing were personal favourites.
This was a great performance, and really brought history to life. It engaged the audience so we didn't feel as if we were watching, but taking part. The enthusiasm of the cast really shone through. Horrible Histories offers a sneakily good way to teach history to children and we wouldn't hesitate to book again for the next offering.
JTB, JMB, CG for Mumsnet Nottingham
We were invited by the Theatre Royal to review ‘Peppa Pig's Big Splash' on Saturday 25th October 2014.
Our review team was one two and a half year-old, with two adults. This ratio seemed typical in an audience peppered with pre-schoolers, in a sea of parents and grandparents, packing the theatre for a family treat.
The theatre was prepared for this tide of tots, with a large roped-off pushchair storage area and armfuls of booster seats. Ground floor men's and women's toilets include baby changing facilities and there are more upstairs.
The curtain opened on a familiar bright, cartoonish set and the show began with a game of hide and seek. Peppa's friends, represented as child-sized puppets, popped up from behind shrubs and inside playhouses to introduce themselves, while Daisy, our bubbly ‘human guide' skipped about seeking – assisted of course by the audience. Peppa herself was last to emerge, with a characteristic snort. Mummy Pig and Daddy Pig appeared and we felt at home with our cast of friends.
Daisy easily engaged us in clapping and waving to cheery songs. Children were encouraged to jump – to help shake a dinosaur toy down from a tree. This proved invaluable practice for the show's finale.
After the interval, we moved to a fundraising fair, with stalls, games and a costumed ‘Mr Potato' causing speculation about the true size of potatoes and power of the imagination.
The finale arrived with the puddle-jumping competition. Daddy Pig was the world record holder but with a relaxed approach to training, his record was taken by Mr Bull – as the front rows were lightly splashed.
What was to be done? Was there any rule about how many friends could help one puddle-jumper? No? Well then, Peppa might just have the answer – her friends! First she must find her golden boots, then, with one big jump from everyone – the puddle was gone!
The use of puppets, rather than costume characters, gave Peppa and friends a cute friendliness and toddler-eye perspective on the set and adult characters - who would otherwise have been monstrous - successfully maintaining a cartoonish fantasy.
Our small reviewer was most engaged by the songs and jumping. Brightly-lit windmills in the audience proved a distraction (and a lesson learnt for us – be prepared to buy merchandise early, or distract effectively). Altogether, her curiosity and sense of fun at being part of Peppa's world, was maintained successfully. That inclusion, more than Peppa Pig herself, was what it was all about.
FD, BD and CG for Mumsnet Nottingham
The Theatre Royal invited us to review ‘Scooby-Doo', showing in Nottingham from Friday 29th to Sunday 31st August 2014. The story sees Scooby, Shaggy and their friends, arrive in Egypt to solve ‘The Mystery of the Pyramid', which they set about with characteristic gusto.
On my arrival there was a buzz of excitement as families poured into the theatre. As I took my seat next to a little girl and her mother, an air of noisy expectation pervaded; this was encouraged by upbeat music pouring from the loud speakers. This was to be a noisy, but very enjoyable, ‘mystery' show.
The set, light and sound are all used to maximum effect in this production. There are a few scary moments when the lights go out, or are dimmed, such as the initial viewing of two dancing mummies, but these are momentary and add to the general excitement. The costumes are bright and true to the style of the television characters. The acting is excellent and includes lots of singing and dancing.
This is a production that requires lots of audience participation: The characters come into the stalls on several occasions, offering high fives, and encourage clapping, dancing, booing and the inevitable ‘he's behind you!' throughout. The children in the audience were engaged by the story and keen to dance, boo and wave to the characters on stage. This was a show equally appreciated by the adults in the family, with some good jokes and skilful dance moves by the actors, not to mention a particularly impressive speech from Shaggy, spoken at great speed.
Before the performance and during the interval, Scooby-Doo activity books and glowing, spinning windmills, were for sale; these proved popular with children. The production is 90 minutes long, including a 20 minute interval, which allowed plenty of time to eat ice creams, go to the toilet, and chat about the performance so far.
Overall, a lively and engaging production brimming with energy and fun.
CW for Mumsnet Nottingham.
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