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The First Hippo on the Moon

David Walliams is coming to Letchworth! Well, kind of. The First Hippo on the Moon will be landing on stage at the Broadway Theatre, Letchworth on Monday and Tuesday. If you’ve got young children, or if you’re lucky enough to be grandparents who are looking for an Easter holiday treat, then I advise you to go and see this. I saw the show when it was at the Rhodes Theatre in Bishop’s Stortford and it’s great fun. It’s colourful, fast-paced, funny, and there are many good tunes. I saw it during the February half term and the children in the audience were in stitches and every joke brought the house down. If you haven’t been to the Broadway Theatre yet, this is your chance. I absolutely love it. The way this stunning Art Deco building has been refurbished makes every visit feel like a grand treat. There’s a swanky bar area, glossy foyer, swoony lights and even the loos are impressive. Which is a neat segue into a review of the show by my fellow Muddy editor Debbie, who is based in Sussex. Go and see this show – you’ll have a blast.

Photo: David Parry/PA Wire

Debbie says: Like a good poo joke? Bet you know a child who does. The stage production of David Walliams’s The First Hippo on the Moon blasted off at, appropriately enough, the Royal Hippodrome Eastbourne. I went along to the opening performance and there were poo jokes – not to mention gross sound effects – aplenty. It’s the story of two hippos – one who’s rich and arrogant since he found fame in a city zoo, and another, jungle-based hippo whose dream he stole – the dream of getting to the moon.

Photo: The Other Richard

A space race ensues with the jungle hippo’s more homespun efforts to build a rocket (“It’s minus 129 up there and you haven’t even got a jumper!”) involving various animal friends and a huge pile of dried poo for fuel. The ending has been slightly changed from the book so our grumpy heroine is less duplicitious than in the original and learns her own lesson of sorts.

The show is presented by Les Petits Theatre company. Lead hippo Sheila is a costume character whose ample bum is the, er, butt of several jokes. Her friends – a giraffe called Keith, a female ostrich called Derek (actually more likeable than our lead and skillfully played) and a pair of porcupines called Scratch and Sniff – are puppets (just a long neck in Keith’s case). They’re operated, as is the norm these days, by on stage puppeteers and the set is a simple one, mainly involving moveable palm trees.

Photo: The Other Richard

There are a few quite catchy songs, one of which I found myself humming as I walked out of the theatre. I particularly enjoyed a musical sequence with a wise but narcoleptic ape who dispenses crucial information, between snoozes, and has a touch of Star Wars’ Yoda about him.

Photo: The Other Richard

The poo jokes are plentiful (Walliams knows what makes kids tick) and the puppets break into the audience at one comic point which I won’t spoil. As with panto, there are a few jokes pitched towards the grown-ups.

First Hippo has been adapted from a picture book and is aimed at younger children than Walliams’s other works and the recent stage show of Gangsta Granny. I’d say three to six-years-old is about right and the audience for the opening performance included reception classes who were giggling from the outset. It’s only an hour long, so a good introduction to theatre for those with shorter attention spans.

Photo: The Other Richard

You hear Walliams’s voice off stage at one point and, in fact, at the opening performance I attended he made a surprise appearance on stage at the end (more to the excitement of the adults – though a few of the youngsters recognised him from Britain’s Got Talent). His verdict? “Well, it’s better than the book! If you’ve enjoyed it tell your friends, if you haven’t, tell your enemies to come.”

Photo: David Parry/PA Wire

The First Hippo on the Moon, Mon 10 April, 2pm and 4pm; Tues 11 April, 11am and 2pm. Broadway Theatre, Eastcheap, Letchworth SG6 3DD  01462 681 088

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