Directed and Co-Adapted by Matthew Xia
Co-Adapted and Musical Supervisor & Arrangement by Vikki Stone
Dig out your top hat and
stick cane folks, we’re puttin’ on a show.
Transitioning a six-time BAFTA-winning animated children’s show Hey Duggee to the stage isn’t an easy feat, with legions of Hey Duggee fans present – who wouldn’t settle for a strict hop to the stage. Thankfully co-adaptors Vikki Stone and Matthew Xia bring the magic of the CBeebies classic to life and infuse a spectacle and enchantment into the live incarnation of the firm favourite show with original music, movement, and superb puppetry.
But the triumph of Grant Orchard’s Hey Duggee has always sat in its clean and simple way of life, the geometric shapes, the palettes, and the language it communicates with children (honest, never condescending). And thankfully, this Live Theatre Show presents itself as an extension of the show rather than a re-hash, or God forbid, cash-in. Us dedicated Squirrels are still here for our Badges with the gang at the clubhouse, and while we might be seizing our A-Capella and Egg badges, the prize we’re really after is the covetous Theatre Badge.
The marvel of the show, and this stage production, is that once Roly, Happy, Norrie, Tag, Betty and Duggee set foot outside the clubhouse – anything could happen. From the never-ending chaos of the solar system to the humble backyard for a visit from Hennie or Chipo, the expression of imagination is limitless in Hey Duggee’s embracement of anarchic glee, colour, and joy: brokering a bridge of ease for children to engage with art, science, history, and the day-to-day aspects of everyday life.
Doubling as the show’s narrator (emulating an accurate Alexander Armstrong-vibe) and Duggee is Benedict Hastings, who manages to transfer everything they need to in their performance as Duggee with but a ‘woof’ or a well-timed shift in the puppet’s face or ears.
Hasting is joined onstage by a quintet of marvellously skilled performers, both in their puppetry and vocal expression, with Jane Crawshaw (Norrie), Kaidyn Niall Hinds (Happy), Vinnie Monachello (Tag), Sarah Plamer (Betty) and Clarke Joseph-Edwards as our personal hero Roly. Everyone onstage manages to maintain the personality of their character and attributes throughout the show, engaging with one another, benefitting greatly from the multitude of ensemble roles Lunga Anele-Skosana undertakes and expands upon – encouraging the audience which each stage entrance.
Jackie Trousdale’s set brings a veritable Panto vibe, meant as a strict compliment. It’s bright, unfolding and elevated by Ciarán Cunninghan’s lighting: designed to incorporate Yvonne Stone and Daisy Beattie’s exceptionally well-crafted and scaled puppets seamlessly into the space. It’s a large stage, and utilised well with nothing feels claustrophobic even with all seven performers onstage on occasion. With launching planets, fizzing science experiments, disco lights, and maybe even a splash warning, Hey Duggee offers small snippets of the audience to feel even more a part of the show, especially as we gain our Dance and Singing Badges.
A message for those of you chaperoning: your dancing days are no longer behind you. Nor are the raves. Choreographer Dannielle “Rhimes” Lecointe-Mosca makes sure that everyone finds an inclusion with Hey Duggee’s movement, encouraging those able, and limited, to shift and shiggle in their seats, in the aisle, or even just bob along. Xia and Stone’s production, like all tried-and-tested kids’ shows which strike a fondness with those of us ‘forced’ to watch along – there is just enough liveliness and pizzazz to get even the weariest of bones back into the rhythm (though one more bunny hop and my knees would have given up the game).
It’s staggering how many of the show’s minute details have been captured and replicated for the stage – even the most diligent Squirrel might miss a reference or two. Simple and clean, with plenty of stage spectacle for introducing newcomers to the brilliance of live theatre, Hey Duggee the Live Theatre Show makes for an excellent introductory piece for young audiences to get acquainted with the idea. Oh, and if you’re wondering, it all comes to a rather sticky and energetically fun-fuelled ending to ensure we’re all tuckered out for the ride home.
Hey Duggee: The Live Theatre Show runs at the Festival Theatre until January 29th.
The show runs for 55 minutes without interval. Friday – Sunday at 10am / 1pm / 3.30pm
Suitable for ages 2+
Tickets are available from £18.50, which may be obtained here.