We were invited to see The Man Who Wanted To Be A Penguin by Waterside Arts in Sale. All opinions are our own.
Going to the theatre at Christmas is something my family really love to do. I’ve got a serious soft spot for Waterside Arts in Sale, and their Christmas shows are always worth a watch. This year, and until 31st December, they’re playing host to their latest family Christmas show – The Man Who Wanted To Be A Penguin.
This is the story of an eccentric man (Steve Salt) who lives in a shed surrounded by neighbours (variously played by Loretta Hope) who just don’t get him. He’s always coming up with new and wonderful inventions, but when no one comes to his birthday party, he knows something has to change. That day he receives a gift in the post of a globe. He resolves to go to Antarctica and become a penguin, far from people and rejection. He dresses up as a penguin and even learns their language – something the audience is encouraged to do too!
Along the way he meets explorer Ernest Shackleton, who helps him reach the penguin colony. There he makes friends with the penguins and gets to help out on hatching day!
All the action is built around the shed, which spins on wheels and turns into an arctic tundra, an aeroplane or a mountain. The set is very simple, but very well done. With just a few props you are transported into the Antarctic and into the honking lives of the penguins who live there. There are a heap of crisp white duvets which double up as deep snow drifts, which is so cleverly done.
The hour long show is dotted with magical moments. The dancing toasty coat was so well done, my son and his friend were open mouthed at the magic, because it was magic. At the end, a handful of snow is thrown up in the air and it magically comes down for minutes, which just had them both sat there, agape. It says a lot that a show aimed at children aged 3+ could still hold the attention of two 12 year olds, and what’s more, show them some Christmas magic too.
Of course, the real stars of the show were the penguins, which came in all shapes and sizes. These were mostly puppets, but it was easy to suspend reality and you really felt for them. You worried about their eggs getting cold, and their struggle to snuggle together for warmth. The chilly atmosphere is only enhanced by the frosty soundtrack, which at times makes you shiver a bit, you’re in the moment so much!
Steve Salt and Loretta Hope both deliver a stunning physical performance, dotted with humour and pathos. The way they climb and leap and gambol through the icy Antarctic landscape really brings an extra, dynamic dimension to the show.
The Man Who Wanted To Be A Penguin is such a lovely wintery show. It’s just an hour long, so perfectly pitched for little ones, but even not so little ones, like my pair of 12 year olds! It’s an hour of magic, beautifully done and if you learn a little something about penguins along the way, then so much the better!
If you enjoyed this, you might like to find out about other Christmas shows in and around Manchester this year.