Twenty years of making family theatre has taught us a thing or two about what makes for a fantastic experience for adults and kids alike. Here are our top tips:
- Pick the right show. There’s a real range of shows on each Christmas including pantos, those geared towards under-fives, and quirkier productions designed for a slighter older audience. Theatres will list a suggested age range for their shows and if you have any doubts call up their box office and they’ll be happy to advise you. Pantos are great cultural institutions that all children should see, but don’t habitually book tickets for the panto every year. Non-panto family shows provide all the excitement you get with a traditional panto but with a greater emphasis on high quality storytelling.
- Read the story before you go. Whether it’s the full book, a synopsis provided by the theatre or a simple Wikipedia article, gaining exposure to the story will help your children to engage with the show.
- Don’t be afraid to talk to your children during the production. You might not be very popular if you do so loudly, but quiet whispers to your child to help explain the story and demonstrate your engagement with the show will aid their concentration. If you seem disinterested or sneakily look at your phone then your child will lose interest too.
- Take snacks along with you, or buy a snack in the theatre bar. Don’t worry if your choice rustles when you unwrap it or your child crunches loudly – provided you’ve not selected to take them to see Titus Andronicus most of the audience will have children with them and won’t mind.
- Allow plenty of time to get to the theatre. Parking at most theatres can be tricky. Children will pick up on a frantic, stressed parents which can lead to them feeling negative about the whole experience. Toilets can be scarce, so it’s always worth getting there in time to use the loos first.
- The theatre’s ushers are your allies and saviours. If your child can’t see over the person in front or is scared of a character in the show let them know. Most theatres have booster seats or cushions they can provide to help smaller patrons see and we’ve gone to lengths to introduce children to the actors in between scenes so they can see how lovely they really are.
- If you have a child with special needs look out for Relaxed Performances. Most Christmas shows will have one where the house lights stay up, loud noises are toned down and a visual guide to what to expect is provided in advance.