Kids' theatre online to get that culture fix
London families are desperately missing kid-friendly theatre. These are the productions to watch with your tots in tow at home, to educate your kids and support the arts
There have been some brilliant musicals and plays on during lockdown that we've been able to enjoy with the kids.
Cats the Musical was a particular highlight, so adored by even our toddler family members that we decided to purchase the book which inspired it, T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, which we've been reading near-daily. For our family, it was a big moment, a testament to the power of theatre in engaging young minds - even those who would have been too young to watch the show in person.
You see, for families with young children, introducing theatre now makes sense: you don't need to stress about whether your child is too young to sit through the show, or if they'll struggle to manage without a loo trip/snack/tugging on your sleeve and chatting loudly through the whole production. You can take breaks, pause the show to explain a moment of confusion and even have a full meal mid-production. Many of these live stream kids' theatre shows are designed for kids from the age of three.
Watching kids' theatre online together is also a fantastic way to support theatre companies that have been so desperately affected by the current crisis - many have links to direct you to the best ways to donate.
Photo: Nottingham Playhouse
Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company's Noah and the Peacock
What: Nottingham Playhouse has commissioned a brand new show, specially created for Zoom, for families to enjoy at home: Noah and the Peacock, by Jeff James. Aimed at primary school children, the show features a cast of four who will be performing live from their homes, while audience members are invited to dress up as Noah's animals and create sound effects with items found around the house.
The story is a tale of friendship centred around pompous Peacock and modest Peahen, who hear news that a flood is on its way, and they must go two-by-two to the ark. Unfortunately for Peahen, Peacock refuses to go for fear of ruining his plumage.
When: Friday, June 19-Sunday, June 21 (performances at 10:30 am and 2:30pm). Tickets are £9 and include a show activity pack
To book tickets, click here.
The Wind in the Willows musical
What: Kenneth Grahame's favourite animal characters - Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad - come to life in this musical written by Julian Fellowes with Olivier-award winning composer and lyricist, George Stiles and Anthony Drew. Suitable for kids 7 and older, you can also download free activity packs and the book of the show here.
When: Stream the show whenever you like - it costs £4.99 to rent.
Photo: Cirque Du Soleil Luzia
Cirque Du Soleil
What: OK, it's not strictly theatre-theatre, but who can resist Cirque Du Soleil? Amazingly, they've been posting 60-minute specials to their YouTube channel (search for #CirqueConnect).
To watch Cirque du Soleil, click here
Photo: Unicorn Theatre Anansi the Spider Respun
Unicorn Theatre's Anansi The Spider Re-Spun
What: The Unicorn Theatre has teamed up with The Guardian to stream Anansi the Spider Re-Spun for kiddos in lockdown. A three-part series, new episodes are released Saturdays at 11am (the first one was released May 30), and available to watch for three weeks after streaming. The show features the original cast and creative team from the 2019 production, directed by Justin Audibert, who are performing live from their homes.
The show centres around the mischievous spider Anansi, and is designed for children aged 3-8 to enjoy. There are sing-a-long sessions, workshops and downloadable activities for kids to download, too.
When: Sat 30 May at 11am to Sat 4 July – via YouTube.com/UnicornTheatre and The Guardian website
Macbeth - and other offerings from Shakespeare's Globe Theatre
What: While we'd like to think that 15-year-olds would love to watch Shakespeare for fun - just for fun - the reality is that they probably have some schoolwork set around it and could use some theatrical inspiration to help make it come alive. Shakespeare's Globe has an impressive range of resources and educational offerings for students, from primary school students to those in secondary.
Kids can watch Macbeth for free on YouTube courtesy of this Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank production, which has a range of educational resources to accompany it. The show is designed for school-age kids, with a 90-minute running time. Watch it here.
Keen to get your younger children interested in Shakespeare? Then sign them up to a Macbeth storytelling session this month (you'll also find workshops and storytelling sessions for kids 5 and up for shows including The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream online).
The Shows Must Go On! - The Wiz
What: Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Shows Must Go On! has featured a range of productions suitable for children and teens (Cats, Hairspray Live, The Sound of Music). This weekend, the whole family can tune in to watch Tony-Award winning musical The Wiz, based on L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, starring Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Uzo Aduba, Amber Riley, Common, Ne-Yo and David Alan Grier.
Look out for a new musical production each week. Warning: watching these will lead to frequent whole-family sing-alongs (an unexpected lockdown benefit, it turns out).
When: from 7pm Fridays for 48 hours, on YouTube. Viewers will be able to make donations to the NAACP which helps ensure the wellbeing of communities of colour.
Photo: A Monster Calls
The National Theatre - A Monster Calls
What: The Old Vic is releasing recordings of a selection of productions since Matthew Warchus took over as artistic director in 2015. While many won't be suitable for kids, 2018's atmospheric, five-star stage adaptation of Patrick Ness's children's novel A Monster Calls is one for kids 9 and older. Featuring the original cast, the show is a fantastical story of loss, imagination and recovery. Click here to read our five-star review of the show.
When: Through Thursday, 11 June. The show is free to watch and available for a week on The Old Vic’s YouTube channel.
Half Moon Theatre at Home
What: Enjoy a new production weekly, specially created for kids, from young people's theatre venue and touring company, Half Moon. Current shows online include a play on road safety issues, Boys Don't - about boys and their emotions - and The Goose Who Flew, which combines puppetry with storytelling.
When: Each Wednesday at www.halfmoon.org.uk/live, a new youth production is released. If you'd like to donate, click here.
Chichester Festival Theatre
What: Chichester Festival Theatre's CFT At Home has already shown its production of David Walliams' The Midnight Gang online - and an archive performance of Beauty and the Beast, directed by Dale Rooks, with book by Anna Ledwich and music and lyrics from Richard Taylor, is currently available for youngsters to enjoy.
When: Until June 19. Click here to watch - and make a donation.