Suitable for ages six-plus, they said. Right now, ten adults and no children – the average age is about 35 – are sat in a tepee-like ‘hive’ listening to a woman dressed as a bee explaining why her species sting. That ‘plus’ is doing a hell of a lot of work. It is horribly open-ended.
First seen at BAC last year, ‘The Good Neighbour’ originally catered for both children and adults independently, with each getting a different show built around the same material: local hero George Neighbour, who died saving two women from a fire at Christmas 1909. Kids stayed indoors, roaming around a giant theatrical crèche. Adults toured Battersea’s streets, making connections between George and the 2011 riots.
This being Christmas, however, togetherness is all and the outside is off limits. This time we’re all jumbled up and bunged in the crèche. Fine for parents, who beam back at delighted little-uns and play eagerly along. They should read what Time Out said last time: ‘a hugely entertaining and immersive piece that leaves its young (and not so young) audience inspired and excited.’
However, the childless should be warned. We get a ‘hidden’ adults-only show that is, for the most part, exactly the same: a hunt for George Neighbour’s story that takes in bee ladies, talking lightbulbs and momentologists collecting memories (water) in jam jars. It is teeth-grindingly patronising. Even the two brand new moments – a trapdoor with some old sepia photos of Battersea and a fireside telling of George’s story – feel a bit Floella Benjamin. Love thy Neighbour? Reader, after two hours and forty minutes of this, I could have killed him.
By Matt Trueman