You know when you wake up the day after seeing a theatre performance, and you’re still thinking about it? That’s got to be the best indicator that it was good; when it sticks in your head for days. So it was a good sign when, the morning after seeing Man on the Moon at the Sage in Gateshead, my four-year-old son woke up and said: ‘Is Bob real?’
If you haven’t heard about Man on the Moon yet, it’s a new family theatre production (with songs and dancing and jokes) which is currently touring the North. It was produced by New Writing North for the Durham Book Festival (they do one every year), and adapted from a picture book by author and illustrator Simon Bartram, who’s from Gateshead.
It’s about a man named Bob. A very sensible man. His job is to fly to the moon every day and make sure it's nice and tidy, by vacuuming it, obviously. The production tells the story of a day in the life of Bob, and the three people doing the narrating are members of the Bob Fan Club (they’re also aliens, though Bob doesn’t know that).
Which is all quite complicated actually, and I expect it was a tricky task for writer Zoe Cooper to adapt it, and director Ruth Johnson to string it together, but it works (it’s the third year that Ruth has done the New Writing North annual children’s production, and it’s also the third year for performer Claire Tustin – if it ain’t broke and all that).
The four performers were brilliant, but special mention goes to Matthew Gundel, who played the slightly stiff and very sensible Bob. Encouraged to loosen up by the aliens and the audience, he was hilarious – my son and two-year-old daughter were so busy giggling and giggling that they forgot they were holding gingerbread men and left them uneaten.
If you don’t go to a lot of theatre (my family doesn’t), you forget how inspirational it is to see people who can get up in front of an audience and entertain. The great thing about this production is that it’s touring libraries, schools and community centres, and ticket prices range from free to a few pounds, so kids all over will be able to enjoy that inspiration.
Just like my kids did, and no doubt just as it did with my kids, that experience will stay with them – mine are still making Bob’s alien friends out of Play-Doh, and my son now spends every breakfast telling my wife and daughter to stare at me, because he thought Bob’s face was very funny when everyone stared at him. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at making the same face as Bob. Thank goodness for the professionals.
Man on the Moon is touring the North of England until Sunday 1st November 2015. For dates, times and prices of shows go to www.manonthemoontour.com