REVIEW: Shark in the Park, Nonsense Room Productions (Underbelly Festival)

School is finally out for summer. Teachers and children across the land are contemplating 6 weeks of blissful joy. Parents are contemplating their life choices. Mummy has meticulously planned the holidays to ensure just the right amount of organised fun, with some space for the free time and associated boredom that internet parenting gurus insist is terribly important. Mindful of the need to ease the munchkins in gently, Mummy’s plans for the first week of the holidays involved lots of this lovely downtime, and very little in the way of formal activities. Not even a whiff of a show until the weekend. Nine hours into Monday’s playdate and playground plan, Mummy decided that downtime is overrated and booked emergency tickets to see a children’s show on Tuesday. And so we found ourselves at Shark in the Park.

Mummy was aware that this was based on a children’s book but beyond that knew nothing. Crotchet was similarly in the dark. Quaver informed us that she read it in reception. When asked for a synopsis, she asserted that it was about a shark in the park. Armed with this important information and several invaluable bottles of water (plus a medicinal Pimm’s for Mummy), we made our way into the absolutely sweltering Spiegeltent on the Southbank. At this stage, Mummy would like to commend the amazing cast of three actors in multiple layers of costume (and at some stages underneath a duvet!) who managed to sing and dance for an hour in heat that was just about killing off the sedentary audience.

As for Shark in the Park itself, Mummy wasn’t expecting much but found herself surprisingly entertained, despite the hideous heat. It’s a musical romp through all three Nick Sharratt books about Timothy Pope and his shark-spotting telescope. Time and time again, Timothy spots what he thinks is a shark, only to discover that the distinctive fin shape is actually something else. Or is it?….

The simple set works well for a show which attempts to replicate an interactive picture book, while catchy songs and repeated rhyme allow plenty of scope for audience participation. Although it felt obvious to Mummy where each new book began, the production still worked as a cohesive whole (albeit with a bit of a lull during Shark in the Dark) and managed to keep the attention of a room full of very hot and bothered small humans. Adults of the audience will probably also find something to enjoy in the relationship between Timothy and Dad, particularly in the scenes during which Dad attempts to get his smart-mouthed son to bed.

Overall, an entertaining way to spend a summer afternoon and no need to have read the books beforehand. (When questioned afterwards, Quaver reaffirmed her initial impression that it was about a shark in the park.) Given the weather forecast for the rest of the week, we would recommend taking in plenty of water and heading out to the shark-free fountains on the Southbank later to cool off.

RATING: Raindrops, Whiskers and Kettles (aka 3 out of 5 of my favourite things).