Keepy Uppy review at Grand Theatre, Leeds – ‘inventive theatre for young children’

The cast of Keepy Uppy at Grand Theatre, Leeds. Photo: Brian Slater

Ask anyone who has trained with Philippe Gaulier: clowning is seriously hard work. A reminder of just how hard comes in Keepy Uppy, a new production for children aged three and over from the highly regarded Tutti Frutti.

It’s not that the performers don’t pour their energy into the piece – they do – but the show is never more than gently diverting. The other issue is one of storytelling. It feels as if a whole mess of ideas have been shoehorned into a simple story.

The show’s protagonist Joey (Danny Childs) needs to get to a football match. It’s the cup final and we join him on the big day as mum, played by Eden Dominique, is distracted by calls from work. The other obstacles Joey has to overcome include his mum forgetting the half-time oranges and shrinking the team bibs in the wash.

Placey’s play is structurally sound but Wendy Harris’ production also includes odd interludes in which Joey and his mum dance around flags of the world or chase rocket ships through space. To pull off moments of both clowning and contemporary dance and hold the attention of three year olds is a challenge, and one that the performers don’t quite meet.

It’s hard to be too harsh on the production given that the musical elements and the level of invention on stage are impressive: but it does feel as if were the production tighter and less ambitious it would stand a better chance of hitting its goal.

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Musically and theatrically inventive show for young children that overcomplicates its story