Reviews

It’s a Bing thing: Bing Live at Carlisle Sands Centre

Little B has loved Bing for a long time.  It started as a slight liking, progressed to a fondness, and then rapidly developed into a fully fledged obsession. Over the last two years I have spent many a day playing the part of Sula, while Little B, as Bing, forces me to act out scenes from one of the 1,298,437 (or thereabouts) episodes she’s seen. Sparkle Magic being a particular favourite (of hers, not mine).

No, I have never shared Little B’s love of the overgrown whiney rabbit if I’m honest. So when I heard that Bing, long-suffering Flop and Sula the elephant (or is she?!) were going on tour, the last thing I planned to do was buy tickets for all of us, particularly as the closest place we would be able to see the show was the Sands Centre in Carlisle – a 90 minute drive away.

But, as is often the case, my poorer judgment prevailed, and before you could say ‘It’s a Bing thing’, we found ourselves driving 75 miles cross-country to Cumbria.

We arrived at the venue in good time and without sweating or being out of breath, which is a first for us as we’re not known for our organisational or timekeeping skills. The anticipation in the theatre was palpable, as Flop counted down the time remaining until the start of the show. And then, bang on 1pm, the familiar Bing theme music began and excitement levels rocketed.

Bing, Flop and Sula were the first of the characters to make an entrance, and I have to admit, I worried that this was going to be a very long hour or so. The show uses puppets, operated by sometimes as many as 3 people. The puppeteers also voice each of the characters.

While the puppetry is cleverly done, I initially found it hard not to be distracted by the puppeteers. We have seen In the Night Garden Live a couple of times, and while some of the puppets in that show were operated in a similar way, the puppeteers felt more integrated into the performance.  In Bing Live, they stood out a lot more. Perhaps it was because the stage was smaller, but it did at times feel a bit overcrowded.

That said, Little B was captivated from the start and didn’t seem to even notice the pupeteers. And after about ten minutes of finding the puppeteers a bit off-putting and at times, even creepy in their hospital scrubs-type costumes, I too was able to ignore them and start enjoying myself –  to the extent that I even found Flop floating through space to be pretty convincing (although that could also have been due to the fact that I’d only managed five hours of broken sleep with a 14 week old baby the previous night…).

The show is all about what happens at the theatre: it’s about pretending, dressing up, and using your imagination. It culminates in  Bing and all his friends, including Coco, Sula and the hapless Pando, putting on their own show, with Flop in charge of the technical side, obviously. Even Hoppity Voosh gets a bit of a look in, but there’s no sign of Charlie (presumably because with all the puppets and people squeezed on stage, a pushchair would have been a step too far and a potential health and safety risk….).

There is a lot of interaction with the audience, including dancing and singing, which certainly kept my little girl happily entertained throughout.  The interaction really made it, as at just short of 90 minutes with a 15 minute interval, the show is a little longer than usual for this age group.

My only real criticism would be that I found it hard to follow Bing and Flop at times, as their voices were not always that distinctive. I suppose that having watched Bing and Flop on TV roughly 70 gazillion times, I’ve got pretty used to how they should sound, and am probably therefore much more critical than the average person. That said, the on-stage Bing was much less whiney than his TV counterpart, so it wasn’t all bad!  And it would be unfair to criticise Bing and Flop’s voices without also mentioning how brilliant the voices of Sula,Coco and Amma were. I really couldn’t fault them at all.

Little B had a wonderful time at Bing Live and in her eyes, the whole production was perfect. For little Bing fans, seeing their favourite characters on stage is a magical experience (even if they do look to adults as if they’re all being operated by slightly demented surgeons).  Little B loved all the singing, dancing and shouting out, and the fact that the show was slightly longer than average made no odds to her as she was totally engaged the entire time.

A couple of months after booking our tickets for Carlisle we saw that new dates had been released for Bing Live, and that there would be a performance in Newcastle (a fair bit closer to us than Carlisle!). If Little B is still a massive Bing fan in February next year, we’ll definitely be going again.

(If only to continue our quest to establish what on earth Sula actually is….)

If I’ve managed to convince you to take your little one to see Bing and his friends, you can find out more at https://www.bingliveshow.com/ 

 

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