After our super successful trip to see Oily Cart’s In a Pickle, I couldn’t wait to take Pickle to the theatre again. My first port of call was the mac Birmingham website, and it wasn’t long before I had bought tickets for LPD, Pickle and I to see Sponge by East Midlands dance company Turned On Its Head.
If you’ve ever been to my house, you’ll know it’s pretty much constantly untidy and always in need of a good clean, so I was partly hoping that taking Pickle to a show entirely focused around sponges would begin to foster not only a love of culture but also cleaning! And by the way he was grabbing hold of the sponges in the show… I think I may be onto a winner.
So, what is it? How much fun can really be had with a sponge? Well, it turns out quite a lot actually!
[Sponge is] a new malleable kind of family dance show, set to a 1970s influenced score, perfect for babies, young children and families. Sponge is about all things spongy, a child’s ability to soak information up like a sponge and the squishy, squashy texture that fascinates children and adults alike.
Throughout the forty minute performance, we saw sponges being used to mop up and to clean. We watched sponges be squished, thrown and catapulted. Sponges became snapping crocodiles, a soft comfy bed, a teddy bear, and a whole range of sized and coloured feet! Sponges helped create mystical creatures, explosions of colour, tall towering structures and walls, all brought to life by the two dancers, Louise and Shane, whose excitement, joy and openness quickly put all the children at ease.
Pickle enjoyed a game of peekaboo from behind a sponge with Louise and even took a star turn in the show by being invited to have a dance with Shane (clutching two sponges the entire time!). I may have shed a little proud Mom tear at both of these moments – the cuteness was just too overwhelming. I couldn’t believe how enthralled Pickle remained throughout the performance, especially as it’s completely non-verbal (making it accessible for D/deaf audiences too). I think that speaks volumes about the abilities of both of the performers! And judging by the laughter and joyful comments from parents all around as well, it wasn’t just the early years audience members who were enjoying themselves.
I have a sneaky feeling our particular performance ended a little prematurely as what should have probably been the finale was over-run with excited toddlers who couldn’t resist getting involved in the action. Once one child had invaded the stage, many others saw it as an open invitation and soon there was no stopping them! Very wisely, I think the performers decided to cut straight to the after-show play time, and everyone was invited to discover the fun of sponges for themselves and play.
I’ve never seen so many sponges in my life, and all the different colours, the theatre lights and big colourful tubs made for a really fun and immersive adventure. After a bit of a disco and a chance for LPD and Pickle to enjoy a dance together, we were soon helping to put all the hundreds of sponges back in their respective coloured tubs. A quick thank you to the dancers and we were off back to the real world.
If you’ve never been to mac Birmingham before, you’d be amazed at all there is on offer for families there. We had a little wander around one of the art exhibitions (Beyond the Door: The Koestler Exhibition, a collection of art made by those in prisons, secure hospitals or those serving community sentences in the West Midlands) as well as a leisurely stroll around Cannon Hill Park and a drink in the cafe. Sharing my love for mac Birmingham deserves a whole blog post of its own, but it’s safe to say it holds a very special place in my heart. Take a look at their family friendly shows and events, and use the map below to see how close it is to you. Turned On Its Head will soon be releasing their 2017 tour dates for Sponge, so be the first to hear if it’ll be coming to a theatre near you and follow them on Twitter.
We’ll certainly be planning a return journey to mac birmingham soon (I hope to squeeze in a few more Cinema Bambino visits before Pickle gets too wriggly), but will also keep Turned On Its Head on my radar for anymore baby-friendly shows. I cannot thank them enough for helping us to create such happy family memories.