Bluey’s Big Play, Royal Festival Hall, 2023
Photo: Mark Senior
  • Theatre, Children's
  • Recommended

Review

Bluey’s Big Play

4 out of 5 stars

Short but sweet official stage adventure for the beloved cartoon dog and family

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Time Out says

Where even superior stage adaptations of kids’ cartoons tend not to have much input from the original show creatives, this live adventure for fanatically beloved Australian hound Bluey is as authentic as it comes. ‘Bluey’s Big Play’ is written by the show’s creator Joe Brumm and the voices of its puppets are all-new pre-recordings of the screen cast. 

It also feels like the involvement of Brumm has allowed the creative team to do things a little differently - it’s not that Rosemary Myers’s production isn’t crowd-pleasing, it’s just a little less reverential of the source material than these things tend to be. 

So you don’t just get a bam-bam-bam compilation of cartoon episodes recreated on stage: there’s a very gentle but nonetheless original plot. It also opens with a couple of cheeky flourishes. The first is the long, wordless intro, in which the puppeteers – the show’s only human performers – ease us in with a segment in which a group of ibises (I believe Bluey and family refer to them as ‘bin chickens’ in the show) wordlessly prance around on Bluey’s street. It’s a pretty, meditative start that chimes with the source show’s weirder moments.

That leads into the arrival of Bluey and the Heeler family, as they decide to have a game of musical statues – amusingly, it’s a sort of origin story for the cartoon’s intro sequence, which takes pleasure in wrong-footing the audience by jumbling up the order in which the family members are eliminated.

Jonathon Oxlade’s puppets are big and bright and cartoonish – though they have two operators apiece they’re not by any means super sophisticated, but they really look the part, which is the main thing. 

The main story is slight but sweet. Bluey and sister Bingo steal dad Bandit’s phone, which he’s glued to, to the point of addiction. And simultaneously Bluey is annoyed that her younger sibling insists on copying everything she does. There’s some wacky business, including an amusing hit-and-run in a play car and a cameo for the infamous Furby-alike Chattermax toy. But it definitely taps into the show’s more sentimental side, (not a bad thing by any means), I studied my children for signs that they were taking the message on board after a morning of thumping each other. They were not. 

With no padding songs or audience interaction it’s undeniably pretty brisk, and though beautifully done I’m not sure an extra ten minutes of story would have killed it. Still, after looking like it’s going to end a little too soon, the Heelers finally cave in and break out the oldest trick in the kids’ theatre book by lobbing some giant inflatable balls into the audience - it’s not subtle, but does send us out with the requisite adrenaline rush at the end of this surprisingly delicate show.

Details

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Price:
£20-£29.50. Runs 55min
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