Children’s rhyming picture books are always a great choice for theatrical adaptations, so it’s little wonder that many Julia Donaldson stories make their way to the stage. Our bookshelves were once stacked full with Donaldson’s stories and bedtimes regularly featured her familiar refrains. One we never came across is The Flying Bath (illustrated by David Roberts), which has been turned into a puppetry production and is currently playing at Little Angel Studios. Since the munchkins are now well outside the age 2-5 recommendation, Mummy took a solo trip to see it on the weekend. (Top tip – borrow a toddler to avoid odd looks when you rock up at a show for under fives on your own.)
Samantha Lane’s adaptation is a fun production that elevates a short picture book into something rather more substantial. The original story sees a collection of bath toys flying off on adventures once the humans have left the house. It’s quite a quick read, so clearly needed a bit of padding to create a full length show. Lane does this well, adding an additional narrative involving a pair of children (Kat Johns-Burke and Mark Esaias) playing in the bathroom. Using everyday items they find around the room, they construct a magical world inhabited by ‘the Bath Squad’.
This gives the production a lot more depth, and plenty of scope for Emma Tompkins to get playful with her brightly-coloured set and puppet design. Children familiar with the book will recognise Robert’s core characters and Donaldson’s trademark rhymes, but there’s a lot more to it, including catchy music by Dominic Sales. Sherry Coenen is also back at Little Angel, showcasing the skills that saw her deservedly win an Offie (alongside designer, Sam Wilde) for I Want My Hat Back. The lighting on the bath itself is fantastic.
The test of a piece of theatre for this age group is whether it can silence children with awe and/or have them squealing with joy. The Flying Bath ticks both boxes and not just because it utilises the tried and tested trick of filling the room with bubbles! The two performers are extremely engaging; Esais is especially entertaining as a camp bumblebee in need of a beverage, while Johns-Burke amuses as a headstrong child, intent on controlling the game. Parents of siblings will particularly enjoy the bickering between the pair.
Overall, The Flying Bath is a fantastically fun production which has pretty much everything you could ask of an early years show. It’s a brilliant celebration of the joys of imaginative play and the unique dynamic of sibling relationships. It will no doubt inspire its young audiences to get creative at home, but be prepared to have a very messy bathroom afterwards!
If you have slightly older children, we also recommend The Instrumentals which is currently playing at Little Angel Theatre. Read our review over at Broadway World UK.
The Flying Bath plays at Little Angel Studios from 1 March to 23 April 2023. We received a complimentary press ticket to the 1.30pm performance on 25 March.