Excited to be returning with my oldest son to the theatre for our fourth time, I was particularly thrilled this time around to also be bringing my husband and 3 year old twins, who were attending for their first time. In contrast with all of the other performances I have seen at Childsplay (which were all adaptations from some of my favorite books), I did not know the complete storyline of this play prior to attending. With a show geared for ages 3 and up, that upon first read of the description looked to be an entertaining one, I was eager to see what was in store for us. This performance was definitely full of fun and creativity; my boys certainly enjoyed it, and although this was not my favorite storyline ever, it was unarguably well executed, as always.
This play is an original story, inspired by playwright Jonathan Graham, centered around a “typical” family who seems to have lost a bit of their connection with each other, somewhere between the dull routine of everyday life and their never ending need to be plugged in to the devices they are constantly carrying. The parent’s preoccupation with their technology leaves them oblivious to what is happening around them, as the last pea on the plate that 8 year old Evan is struggling to stomach literally grows before his eyes into the monster he was wishing for. Evan and younger sister Sue, who soon discovers his secret, are delighted to have this new monster Pea as their playmate, and find themselves enjoying time together pretending, being silly, and having all kinds of fun. Pea not only brings the two siblings together, but in the end, manages to unplug and unite the entire family with the power of play.
My favorite element of this show was definitely its humor. Not only is Pea a very funny monster who has the kids in the audience cracking up, but there is a ton of satire and comical comments thrown in to keep the adults in the audience chuckling as well. Also, I think the storyline certainly holds relatable elements for kids everywhere – being forced to eat their vegetables, having to deal with annoying younger siblings, and wishing their parents could devote more time and attention to playing with them. Evan depicts his parents as pretty unexciting, noting that parents everywhere tend to be a little boring; they enjoy gross stuff like coffee and feta cheese, and spend their free time watching boring movies or sitting around talking about boring stuff. The adults in the audience are left laughing as we see ourselves portrayed from our kids’ points of view, but also hits on a note of truth for many of us as we watch the loving, yet sometimes disengaged parents struggle to disconnect from the digital world and find time to just play.
I have mixed feelings on the age recommendations given for this show. This performance is approximately 60 minutes (with no intermission), which is a fairly good chunk of time for young kiddos to sit calmly and quietly. My very active 3 year old boys did pretty well for the duration, getting only a little antsy towards the end. For the most part, they were actually quite engaged, watching all the imaginative play and silly antics coming from Evan, Sue, and Pea. I was a little surprised with a 3+ age recommendation to hear the word “stupid” in the script, and to have Evan pretend to “suck out the brains” of one of the stuffed animals in one of the numerous creative play scenes with Pea and his sister. I’m not sure that my youngsters really took much notice, but it certainly caught my attention!
This show is presented in the Studio, which is especially nice for a younger audience to be in a smaller and more up-close setting. The set and costumes were very colorful and wacky, immediately catching your eye, promising fun and drawing the audience in. And of course, the cast was amazing – have they ever not been?! Katie McFadzen really brought the monster Pea to life with her wild expressions and crazy actions. The kids were fixated, and couldn’t help but watch to see what she would do next!
Childsplay again offers opportunities to extend and enhance your experience at the theatre. There are several thought provoking activities with opportunities to teach, predict and discuss, including suggestions of things to think about, talk about, and watch for during your time at the theater and even afterwards. My boys all enjoyed making their own monster hands prior to the show. I would suggest arriving about 20-30 minutes early to allow enough time to make those and hit upon a few of the suggested discussion points with your kids before show time.
Overall, The Boy Who Loved Monsters and The Girl Who Loved Peas is an entertaining show that leaves the audience with a warm ending, and a great take home message about the importance of playing and spending time together as a family, as well as a challenge from the cast to try to do just that!