Chocolate Cake at the Polka Theatre
Successful children’s theatre tends to master the fine art of simultaneously creating something that its young audience will love, but that won’t entirely bore their accompanying adults. Chocolate Cake, based on poems by acclaimed author Michael Rosen, certainly manages the former with aplomb. This fun new musical interpretation has been adapted by Peter Glanville and Barb Jungr, who also created a hit version of We’re Going a Bear Hunt a few years ago.
The production tells the story of a boy who loves chocolate cake so much that he eats one baked specially for his brother’s birthday in the middle of the night, and it features much highly relatable lip-smacking. Full of happily bouncy songs, the play is catchy enough to entertain its young viewers’ short attention spans – though occasionally it becomes irritatingly repetitive. The words of both the musical numbers and dialogue are perhaps the best part: full of unexpected similes (“I’m as full as an egg!”) and jokes that the kids loved.
Michael – the protagonist – is engagingly performed by Mark Houston, who manages to seem like a child without becoming a caricature. The other two members of the ensemble, Todd Heppenstall and Aminita Francis, take on the roles of his brother and mother – plus many other minor characters. The three work well together with an easy chemistry that – despite the highly performative acting necessary for entertaining children – never seems forced. The visuals of the performance are highly effective; working with simple set materials and a screen backdrop that adds rotating graphics during the songs, the actors transform the stage from home to classroom and beyond.
Most importantly, the audience of youngsters seemed to enjoy it enormously, eagerly trying to catch the bubbles that were blown from the ceiling and laughing heartily at a slightly laboured Bake Off-themed song. Perhaps less significantly, despite some sequences that drag on, Chocolate Cake is engaging and original enough to enjoyed by the adults around.
Chocolate Cake is at the Polka Theatre from 23rd March until 13th May 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.