Review: Julia Donaldson's bright, bubbly and silly treat for the family on stage in Coventry

A great introduction to live theatre: What the Ladybird Saw
A great introduction to live theatre: What the Ladybird Saw

Sundari Cleal reviews What the Ladybird Heard at the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry

Jaunty songs, fully-embraced farce, audience participation – this family production of a colourful tale by much-loved children’s writer Julia Donaldson ticks all the boxes for a fun afternoon out.

All the usual animals are doing their normal thing on the farm – but this farm also has a clever but silent ladybird on it too. She witnesses a discussion between two thieves, Hefty Hugh (Edward Way) and Lanky Len (Benedict Hastings, about their plan to steal the farm’s Fine Prize Cow and is spurred on to break her silence to devise a cunning plan to try to stop them.

For me, the beauty of Donaldson’s stories lies in her lyrical verse that keeps the flow and interest going from beginning to end. This is somewhat lost on the stage as the four characters begin with a long preamble and continuously break off from the story with chatter. I can appreciate that to bring a children’s short story to life on stage and devise it into an hour long show is no mean feat, but I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed that this beauty was taken away.

Nonetheless, all four actors are bright and bubbly and have no inhibitions about acting silly – which is exactly what children love. My three-year-old was a little confused about what was happening at times, but she did enjoy joining in shouting out animal noises and the frequent ”hurray” and spotting the ladybird - and my one-year-old had a great time dancing along to the catchy music. I particularly enjoyed the performance by the two thieves, who were the perfect pantomime villains.

This show was perhaps suited to children a little older than mine, but it was a great way to introduce them to live theatre and I would like to take them to see more productions like this again.

* What the Ladybird Heard was staged at the Belgrade on April 13 and 14. Visit www.belgrade.co.uk for details of future shows at the venue.