Sarah and Duck’s Big Top Birthday (Polka Theatre, Wimbledon)

Sarah and Duck’s Big Top Birthday (Polka Theatre, Wimbledon, until May 14th, then touring)

It’s been a huge hit on CBeebies, charming children and adults alike with its charming tales about a little girl and her feathered friend.

Now, the BAFTA Award-winning animation – which has just celebrated its 100th episode –  has become a quacker of a live stage show thanks to the Polka Theatre’s hugely enjoyable Sarah & Duck’s Big Top Birthday.

All the elements of the terrific TV series are there, from Roger Allam’s twinkling stentorian narration to the acrobatic shallots, and from mellifluous Moon to the restful park bench.

The simple five-minute episodes become a meaty hour of on-stage fun with a story about Scarf Lady (voiced by the wonderful Lesley Nicol) and her ever-loyal bag (given voice by a hilariously long-suffering Andy Nyman) searching for her birthday, with the other characters planning a special party in their garden.

None of the eccentricity and humour of Sarah Gomes Harris’ stories is lost as characters fly around in a hot air balloon, perfect their party pieces and battle with the weather. Through the wonders of Polka’s perfect puppetry we meet many of the familiar faces from the TV show, including Sarah (voiced by Tasha Lawrence), daredevil Duck (his party trick is to be fired from a cannon), John and Flamingo, the Ribbon Sisters, the penguins, Cake and Umbrella.

It is, of course, all extremely silly and occasionally surreal, but as with the television tales the stage production is one that will appeal to all ages, from three to 103. The energetic young cast bring all the characters to life vividly, with the puppet performances done carefully and respectfully, ensuring the third dimension allowed by a live show is fully utilised.

Ooooooh, me contents! Without doubt, this is a specquackular show that more than lives up to its TV counterpart.

David Guest

Picture,  Pamela Raith

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