Many children (and their grown-ups) will be familiar with the fable of the little red hen; a farmyard tale about hard work and cooperation. Regular visitors to Polka Theatre may also be familiar with Stuff and Nonsense Theatre Company, who delighted audiences last year with The Gingerbread Man. They’re back at Polka for May half term with their production of The Adventures of The Little Red Hen. With the munchkins at a dance rehearsal, Mummy (once again) found herself taking a solo trip to see a children’s show, and ended up having an absolutely delightful morning.
Directed by Niki McCretton, The Adventures of The Little Red Hen masterfully blends music, puppetry and comedy to create a lively adaptation of the classic story. Hen (played brilliantly by Jenny Harrold but occasionally taking the form of a puppet) is on a mission to bake a delicious loaf of bread. She has grain but there are a lot of complicated steps to go through before she can even begin baking. She could really do with some support from her farmyard friends but has no luck persuading Pig, Cow or Rat to get involved. Luckily, help is at hand in the form of musician and puppeteer pal, Adam (Gareth Price-Baghurst) and their very enthusiastic audience.
We are strong proponents of the view that children’s theatre should be aimed at the entire audience, adults included, and this production absolutely ticks that box. It may be recommended for ages 3 to 10 but it had everyone in hysterics on Saturday morning. The audience interaction is so natural that many children were getting involved of their own accord, while others squealed with delight.
Music is integrated brilliantly into the performance, with Price-Baghurst playing a range of instruments to accompany (and indeed power) Hen’s endeavours. Thomasin Cuthbert’s design is bright and bold, featuring a versatile set that opens up to reveal a range of surprises. Running at just under an hour, it’s extremely well paced and remains highly engaging throughout. And while the moral of the original fable comes out clearly, it doesn’t feel forced in any way. It’s just great fun from start to finish.
Whether you have children or not, you won’t find many more joyful ways to spend an hour than joining the Little Red Hen on her baking quest. So bring the kids, borrow someone else’s or just embrace your inner child and head on down to Polka Theatre by yourself this half term.
The Adventures of The Little Red Hen plays at Polka Theatre from 26 May to 4 June 2023. We received complimentary press tickets to the 11am performance on Saturday 27 May.