How do you capture the magic of live theatre on screen? It’s a question that came up a lot during lockdown. Archive footage is nice enough but it always feels like something is missing. The same goes for live-streamed shows without any sort of audience interaction. Zoom-based productions have become our preference because of the element of audience interaction that you don’t get with other forms of digital media. Nothing can replicate the feeling of live and interactive like a production that is indeed live and interactive. Or so we thought until we watched Play-Along Plink & Boo.
Devised by Can’t Sit Still (creators of Oh No George!) Play-Along Plink & Boo is a circus-theatre experience for 2-7 year olds (and their families) which has been specially adapted and filmed for digital delivery. The original show was developed in 2017 and toured nationally to theatres, libraries, village and town halls between 2018 and 2019. The new adaptation is on a digital tour to UK venues, meaning you can watch it from the comfort of your own home.
An entertaining show with an important message, Play-Along Plink & Boo uses acrobatics, music and play to challenge gender stereotypes. Plink (Jake England-Johns) is a boy so he gets a toy box full of boyish blue toys like cars. Boo (Hobbit) is a girl so her toy box is full of pink toys like tea-sets and fairy wings. They can’t share. Plink has his box and Boo has her box. But what if Plink like his toys pink? Can’t Boo play with cars too? And what happens when a toy appears that doesn’t fit neatly into one box or the other?
It’s a highly sensory show, which has been beautifully filmed and makes fantastic use of animations to enhance the visual and auditory experience. Using limited spoken word, the performance incorporates Sign Supported English (SSE), while the animations illustrate the sounds and music used, as well as creatively captioning the text. This element is really impressive, particularly the use of colourful animations to show the notes being played on the marimba.
It is clear to see that access is taken very seriously by Can’t Sit Still, who also provide accessibility videos to watch beforehand for audience members who would benefit from familiarising themselves with the performers beforehand. To make the home theatre experience more fun, there is also a video encouraging children to make a den to watch the show from. Made by Thea, the youngest member of the Can’t Sit Still team, it’s really cute and definitely worth a watch even if you aren’t able to watch the show itself.
The munchkins love making dens and had a brilliant time creating their special theatre den before the performance. They took loads of time coming up with their design and trying to make it big enough to fit in Mummy too. It really made the experience more special and is definitely something that we will be doing in future when watching shows online.
To further enhance the experience, there are also printable props to colour in and use during the show. There is no pressure to do this but we would definitely recommend it if you have the time. As they match props that the performers use, it is suggested that an adult prepares them before the show and keeps them hidden until they are handed through the screen. We can see that this would be really magical for early years children, but as the munchkins are a bit older (at 7 and nearly 9), Mummy decided to let them in on the secret and got them involved in making their own props. (This was also an excellent after-school activity on a rainy day.) The munchkins were very excited to sit and watch the show with their props at the ready, and enthusiastically produced them each time the cue came up on screen.
The other prop that needs to be prepared beforehand is a box filled with bits and pieces for the ‘play time’ section of the show. The munchkins made their own boxes, which included musical instruments and confetti. (Top tip – the corn starch packaging that comes with a Lush delivery makes a delightfully smelling confetti which is relatively easy to pick up afterwards!) They absolutely loved throwing the contents of the boxes around the den and it was really joyful to watch them getting so absorbed in the performance (even if they weren’t quite so keen on ‘tidy up time’). In fact, they loved it so much that they went straight back to the beginning of the show to watch it all again*, and then did the play time section on repeat!
We cannot recommend Play-Along Plink and Boo strongly enough to anyone who is looking for an engaging, thought-provoking piece of family theatre to watch from the comfort of their own home. With so many of the online shows we have watched, there has been a tinge of sadness that we didn’t get to watch it live in the theatre. This show has been so brilliantly adapted for digital delivery that it works perfectly on screen, with the additional resources enabling you to turn your home into the closest thing you can possibly get to the full theatre experience.
For more information about Play-Along Plink and Boo, including the digital tour dates head to http://www.cantsitstill.net/play-along-plink-and-boo.html
*We were able to do this as we received a copy of the show to review. Usually you will need to book to watch it online.