How to survive two hours in a dark room with Bob the Builder

10 Sep

I love doing things that make my little girl visibly happy and excited. Often this means doing things that I wouldn’t normally endure – sorry, choose to do – or enjoy myself. And so this sees me, along with many other eager-to-please parents, at theatrical ‘specials’ (not sure what else to call them) featuring such monumental actors as Bob the Builder, Peppa Pig and that great classical actor Tiger (you know, the one who came to tea). What follows are my observations and recommendations on how to spend a successful 90 minutes shut in a dark room full of overexcited children and their reluctant parents. I wouldn’t go as far as to suggest they constitute ‘etiquette’ but a parent indulging in this form of entertainment for the first time may wish to add them to their survival toolbox.

1. The show will not last long but please be sure to pack plenty of snacks for your child. Sugary ones are preferable as they will drive an already excited child into a frenzy. The result of this will be a fairly hardcore tantrum when the child is asked to return a cheap, flashing light stick (available for purchase in the foyer for an unknown reason) to a similarly bawling sibling. Think the embarrassment of a tantrum in a supermarket but multiplied by the number of rows in the theatre.

2. If either parent feels the urge to sleep please ensure that they don’t do it with the baby child on their lap. Other theatre goers don’t appreciate an unrestrained baby pulling their hair or posseting down the back of their neck. If you believe you can go along to one of these shows for a sleep please see point 5 below.

3. You must join in with the songs but if you do so whilst looking intently at your child it will suggest you are doing it for them (and disguise the fact that you’re secretly enjoying it as it’s the closest you’ve got to a drunken night out in months).

4. If joining in really is too much for you then be sure to take a grandparent with you, preferably one who is ‘young at heart’. They will not be able to resist trying to impress their grandchild and will sing and dance with gusto. This deflects attention from yourself and permits some shut-eye (see point 2 above but again with the proviso of point 5 below).

5. It is important that your child spends as much time as possible kicking the back of the seat in front of them. If said seat is occupied by an adult do not be concerned that they will turn around and complain. They know full well that their child is doing the same to someone else. Parents in glass theatres shouldn’t throw stones – if someone else’s child is committing a socially unacceptable act it is inevitable that your’s will do too by the time the curtain falls.

6. Although you suspect it will lead to disappointment, if there is an opportunity for your child to go on stage you must encourage them to get to the front of the auditorium as quickly as possible. They will be slightly reluctant so will only reach the front once the lucky child (whose parent splashed out on the front row – you didn’t) has already been selected. This culminates in you needing to retrieve your child as, across the audience, they implore you with sad-eyes, confused as to why you made them go up only to be sent away again.

7. Some mothers use such events as an opportunity to have a chat with a friend over the heads of their children. They will generally by the well-coiffeured type who can barely lift their hand for the diamonds. Not the type you’d expect to be seen dead in a local theatre but needs must darling. Prepare to be moderately irritated by them. In such circumstances school your child in point 5 above.

So if you have an audience with Bob or Peppa coming up my advice is to go prepared and you may even enjoy yourself. If you don’t enjoy yourself then the thrill of seeing your little one believe they’ve been waved at by their hero (and not simply a jobbing actor in a big foam suit) will make it all worthwhile.

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