It’s not often I get to spend one-on-one time with my big girl Allegra, without having to rush off to do something baby-related or laundry-related or tidying-up related or cooking-related. It seems I’m always saying “I will in just a minute, I just need to…” and play is suspended for another 10 minutes (usually longer).
But today, Granny and Grandad were on baby Claudia duties and Allegra and I enjoyed a theatre date together, at the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon, just the two of us. It was brilliant.
Ignoring the drizzle and cold, and the fact I’d left the buggy rainhood at pre-school, we bundled ourselves up and set off on the train. This in itself was a highlight of the day for Allegra, who enjoys riding trains and buses and tubes, so she was in her element.
We arrived in good time, a little soggy but spirits not dampened, and then in we went to see Mini Gorilla – a special version of Gorilla, tailored for 1-2 year olds, currently running at the Polka in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the classic award-winning picture book by the same name, written by former Children’s Laureate Anthony Browne.
The production was set in a tiny little room at the theatre, probably only space enough for about 30 or so adults and accompanying toddlers, but it was sweet and intimate and it meant you were very close to the performance, which really captured Allegra from the off.
We weren’t familiar with the Gorilla storybook before seeing the show today, but it didn’t matter, because the story was told so beautifully by the two actors and really brought to life with puppetry, music, and simple but effective set and design, which made the whole thing come to life. You can get a taste of it by watching this…
Allegra (who’s now 32 months old, going on a lot more…!) sat still throughout the 30 minute performance and was genuinely drawn in by the story and seemed to love the puppets too: “it’s just a pretend Gorilla, isn’t it mummy?” – she asked me, just checking…! She really took on the story too, as afterwards during lunch she was recounting it to me and then said: “Hannah and her daddy are going to the zoo now mummy, then they’ll go back home because they’ll be tired” – she said, imagining how the story would continue beyond where we left it at the end of the show.
After the performance, the children had the chance to go meet Hannah and her Dad/the puppets of Hannah and the gorilla, which of course we did. Unfortunately I couldn’t persuade Allegra to have her photo taken with the gorilla, I think she was still not entirely convinced that it mightn’t be a real (miniature!) gorilla so she wasn’t taking any chances!
We finished off our theatre date with a spot of lunch in the charming Polka Theatre cafe, where we bagged ourselves a little “train carriage” booth and ordered pasta Bolognese for her and a tuna panini for me. Delicious. Rounded off with a chocolate monkey lolly for the little miss and a very indulgent hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows for me (well, it was a drizzly rainy day after all…!). Yum!
It was impossible to leave without first buying a copy of the Gorilla book – which we will enjoy reading together for a long time to come – and a mini Gorilla toy for baby Claudia, which she promptly chewed and drooled over when she got her baby hands on it!
If you live in/around South West London, you really should try to pay a visit to the Polka Theatre – it’s been established some 30 years and it really is a lovely place to go and experience the theatre with your little ones in a very relaxed and friendly environment. You can check out what’s on here.
We were given 2 complimentary tickets to see Mini Gorilla by the Polka Theatre, but all opinions are honest and our own.