Somewhere hidden amongst thorny brambles is a little kingdom of elves and fairies. And on Sunday we managed to find it at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham! Before you ask, no, I haven’t lost my marbles. Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom Live is currently touring around the UK. And as Oscar is a big fan of the show, we went along to see what it was all about.What is Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom Live about?
Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom Live magically combines lots of recognisable stories from the hugely popular children’s TV series, to make one full-length stage show. Princess Holly, Ben Elf, and a whole host of their friends take you on an exciting musical adventure packed full of fun, games, songs and laughter on an enchanting journey through the Little Kingdom.
My thoughts on Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom Live
The story begins in the meadow, where Ben and Holly introduce themselves to the audience and then play a game of hide and seek. The first thing I noticed when the curtain opened was how fantastic the set looked. It was big and brightly coloured, and most definitely made me feel like we were there in the Little Kingdom itself.
The costumes were lovely and colourful too, and I was pleased to see that the characters heads looked just like they do in the TV series. I remember reading some reviews the last time the show toured, and most of them seemed to focus on how you could see the actors mouths and chins, which sounded a little creepy. I’m so glad they fixed this and came up with a way to make the characters more realistic.
I should warn you though that the show isn’t voiced by the original Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom cast. And although most of the characters do sound somewhat like they do in the TV series, Ben Elf and Lucy don’t. For myself and Stacey (who is 13 now, but loved Ben and Holly back in the day) it took a little getting used to. Oscar didn’t seem to notice though. And in my opinion, that’s all that matters.
Next up, Holly decides she’s going to use her magic to help Ben Elf fly. But that doesn’t work out too well and she ends up turning him into a frog instead! Oscar was absolutely mesmerised by this bit, and couldn’t believe that Ben had turned into a frog right in front of him. I wish I’d been able to take a picture of his face at this point as I’ve never seen him look as shocked! But luckily, Nanny Plum came to the rescue and made things right again. Phew!
One of our favourite Ben and Holly episodes is ‘Gaston’s Messy Cave’ where Nanny Plum is disgusted by just how messy Gaston’s home is, and proceeds to clean it up with the help of Princess Holly and Ben Elf as they think it will cheer the little ladybird up. So we were over the moon to find that this particular story was included in the show.
As we enter Gaston’s home, the scenery changed to show a dark and dreary cave, with lots of rubbish scattered around the floor and cobwebs all over the walls. Nanny and the children get to work cleaning it up, and with a wave of the fairies wands, the rubbish started floating through the air and into the dustbin! It’s pretty obvious to us adults how it’s done, but it’s so clever that I was ridiculously impressed! And of course, Oscar thought it was real magic and kept pointing at it and saying “Look, mummy, look.” Oh, to be three again!
Those of you who have seen this episode before will know that Gaston isn’t happy when he comes home to discover his cave has been cleaned up. And the little elf and fairies have to start making it all messy again. Oops …
When I first realised that Gaston the Ladybird was going to be in the show, I expected him to be powered by a remote control. But actually, the cast just push him around the stage when he needs to be moved! This may sound a little odd, but it worked really well as it looked like Gaston was scuttling along like a real bug.
Once Gaston’s cave is nice and messy again Nanny Plum tells Ben and Holly that it’s time for them to go home to bed. But, just like my children, they want to carry on playing. So Nanny Plum (who is also a tooth fairy) take them on her rounds to collect a tooth from a little girl called Lucy. Unfortunately, Ben and Holly make too much noise and wake her up. But Lucy is thrilled to meet them and asks if she can visit the Little Kingdom.
Nanny does a shrinking spell and hey presto, Lucy is small enough to fly back to Ben and Holly’s home on Gaston the Ladybird’s back. The stage then goes black and we see puppets of Nanny, Ben, Holly, Lucy and Gaston flying through the starry night sky. It was truly magical and one of my favourite parts of the show.
After the interval, things got a little more fast-paced. There were definitely more music and songs than there had been in the first half of the show. And a couple of these songs required some audience participation in the form of doing actions!
So, Nanny and the children arrived back at the Little Kingdom and take Lucy’s tooth to the Wise Old Elf to be registered and stored away. The Wise Old Elf isn’t very happy when he hears that Nanny has shrunken Lucy down and brought her back to their home, but he allows her to stay and invites the gang to the rehearsal of the Elf Band who are preparing songs for King Thistle’s birthday.
We were encouraged to join in with one of my all-time favourite songs at this point: The Music Man! I was singing away and thoroughly enjoying myself, but I have to admit that I never thought I’d be singing the line ‘I play the ladybird!’ Haha. The audience loved it though, and I noticed that many of the children in the stalls were standing up and singing and dancing in the aisles. It was a fabulous sight to see!
We then met King Thistle, who had sadly come down with a cold. Nanny Plum managed to find a recipe for a potion to cure said cold, and she and the children head out into the meadow to find the ingredients to make it. First of all, they needed a dew drop from a spider’s web. They ask a spider politely if they can take a dew drop from her web, and she agrees.
Next, they needed some slime from a slug. They ask a slug politely if they can take some of his slime and he agrees. All the children in the audience were screaming ‘Urgh’ as Holly scraped it from the slugs back and put it in a jar! Oscar looked disgusted but was laughing along with everyone else. And finally, they needed some frogs burp. Stacey was actually amazed at how Lucy managed to bottle this, as she held a jar in front of it, it burped and the next thing the jar was filled with smoke. Magic!
The scenery then changes to the castle kitchen, and the gang made the potion with the ingredients they’d collected. But instead of rubbing it on his feet as intended, King Thistle accidentally drinks it! Nanny then realised that they’d made the wrong potion and it was actually one for curing baldness! King Thistle’s hair and beard magically grow, but his cold symptoms disappeared at the same time, so he couldn’t be happier. However, he doesn’t want to celebrate his birthday because he doesn’t like getting older. Aww.
Ben and Holly and all their friends decide to try to cheer him up by planning a surprise birthday party for him. We got another song with actions to join in with at this point, and then Nanny Plum caused an actual jelly flood! This was created by using two pieces of red material across the width of the stage and keeping it moving all the time so it looked like actual jelly running through the castle. The King then decided he did actually want to celebrate and encouraged everyone to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to him. We had another little boogie and then, sadly, the show came to an end.
Overall, Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom Live was thoroughly enjoyable, and it held Oscar’s attention throughout. My favourite part was when the team were cleaning Gaston’s cave and all the rubbish was being magicked into the dustbin. And Oscar tells me that his was when Holly accidentally turned Ben into a frog. And the jelly flood of course!
I thought there was just the right amount of songs featured in the show, although there were only two that we actually knew. I think it would have been nice to have maybe included a couple from the TV series itself. I know ‘Gaston the Ladybird, Woof Woof’ is a firm favourite in our house. And I think it would have gone down a storm in the show as Gaston was a big hit with the little ones. He most definitely got the biggest cheers of the afternoon!
I’d say the show is a good length for little ones to enjoy – I couldn’t time it to perfection as we had the added excitement of there being a power cut during the performance we went to! But I think it would have been around an hour and fifteen minutes, with a fifteen minute interval. And I just want to say that the staff at the Theatre Royal did a fantastic job of reassuring everyone that everything was going to be OK when we were plunged into darkness! They soon got the emergency lighting on, and I have to say that where we were sat in the stalls, not a single tot got upset about it. They all just sat patiently and waited for the performance to start up again, bless them.
Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom Live is perfect for children under 5, and provides just the right amount of magic and mystery for them to enjoy. We loved it!
Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom Live will be making its way around the UK until Sunday 23rd July 2017. Tickets for the show can be booked by clicking here.
*I was kindly given 4 tickets to see Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom Live in exchange for an honest review