FamilyNorth East & YorkshireReview

Sarah and Duck’s Big Top Birthday – York Theatre Royal

Reviewer: Ron Simpson

Creators: Sarah Gomes Harris and Tim O’Sullivan

MEI Theatrical’s thoroughly engaging version of Sarah Gomes Harris and Tim O’Sullivan’s CBeebies characters begins with five likeable (and, as it proves, very energetic) youngsters singing a song about the weather – very appropriate too, since the weather will play a recurrent part in Sarah and Duck’s Big Top Birthday.

The play, just completing a six-week tour, offers an hour of delight to 4-6 year olds and a very pleasant diversion to those somewhat older. The narrator is there, as on television, rather detached and inclined to take credit where it’s not due, as, for instance, the building (and, after it’s blown away, the re-building) of a splendid Big Top, the result of the labours of the five young people who waste no time in expressing their displeasure.

When Sarah and Duck appear, it’s as puppets manipulated by (who else?) the five. It’s the same for all the characters except Scarf Lady who is played by one of the cast. The story depends on Sarah and Duck’s arranging a birthday soiree (the word used – the narrator’s rather good at throwing in the odd difficult word) for Scarf Lady who has lost her birthday. The answer they come to is a night at the circus!

So The Shallots do acrobatics, the Flamingo walks a tight rope, John does a dance, Sarah tells bad jokes, and so on. Best of all, Duck gets fired out of a cannon! Scarf Lady loves it and at the end Sarah and Duck are happily back on their bench.

Without using advanced technical wizardry the whole thing has pace and charm. The music (generally of a sort of tinkly nature) binds everything together, the little puppets marching in and out of the house are cute, such effects as there are work well (Scarf Lady’s balloon, Duck being blasted from the cannon) and the synchronisation of action and soundtrack is perfect, partly due to the non-stop exertions of the intrepid five.

Reviewed on 30th August 2022.

The Reviews Hub Score

Thoroughly engaging

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The Reviews Hub - Yorkshire & North East

The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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