I asked my daughter why Charlie and Lola’s Best Bestest Play was so good.
Because it’s a reflection of life, she said.
So true. I had been thinking the same thing myself. Everyone in the audience could relate to it, from the parents in early ‘charlieandlolahood’, when their youngsters first had the books read to them, to older children like mine who still go through the same loving battles as Charlie and Lola, to the mums like me who recognise similar levels of cunning and cuteness in their own kids.
The play is so enjoyable because the characters are so endearing. Like the books by Lauren Child (on which the play is based), Charlie and Lola’s Best Bestest Play is narrated by Charlie himself. As we know from his introduction to every book, and every television show:
“I have this little sister Lola.
She is small and very funny…”
Even with all of Lola’s habits, Charlie never really loses his rag, in fact their sibling relationship is quite touching.
Apart from the fact that the boy Charlie is the older sibling, they remind me a lot of my own kids:
Procrastinating about going to sleep (daily).
Being scared of ogres in the wardrobe (nightly).
The amazing imagination (constantly!).
The show is an hour long play by Watershed Productions, adapted from the book by Jonathan Lloyd. It’s just the right length for the small ones and, let’s face it, the bigger ones too. It is performed through puppetry, song and dance, by some enthusiastic puppeteers, and Charlie and Lola’s voices are pre-recorded so we already recognise the voices. When bubbles floated across the stage and paper hearts fell down from the sky the littlest audience members were enthralled. In fact it was impossible to get some of them back to their seats at all after that. I reckon there’s probably a few toddlers still wandering around backstage asking for pink milk and looking for the tigers and the dancing dogs.
Charlie and Lola’s Best Bestest Play was showing as part of the Imagine Festival, which is put on around the February half term every year at Southbank Centre, and is always worth checking out for authors’ events, performances and free workshops. A group of young people from schools in Lambeth, the ‘Festival Ideas Cloud’, decide what they want to see and help to put it into action. There is also a wider group of young people who take part in the Kids Take Over scheme – this was why we had youngsters showing us to our seats; some sell tickets and even manage the lighting and sound.
If you have not visited Imagine Festival before, make a mental reminder for next year. There again, don’t wait a whole year: there is always something to see when you go for a wander around the South Bank.
In the meantime, look out for Charlie and Lola’s Best Bestest Play as it wings around the country on tour. If it pleased both me and my fussy kids, it might well please you and yours. I am almost positive that you will recognise some of the themes and for me it is worth seeing for the sweet relationship between Charlie and Lola – and the dreamlike, surreal bath-time scene where Lola has a lovely time splashing around with some whales.
See http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/ to see what’s on at the Southbank Centre.
Disclaimer: We were given free tickets to see Charlie and Lola’s Best Bestest Play for the purpose of this review. All opinions are my own, and all photos were taken by me.