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Operation Ouch! review at Apollo Theatre, London – ‘engrossing live version of the popular CBBC show’

Chris and Xand van Tulleken in Operation Ouch! at Apollo Theatre, London. Photo: Prudence Upton

For the uninitiated, Operation Ouch! is a CBBC show that offers a – literally – warts-and-all look at the human body. There’s blood, gore and maggots. My five year-old can’t get enough.

Much of the entertainment value hinges on the clownish double act of the hosts, identical twin brothers Doctors Chris and Xand. And so it proves in the live version, as they enter the stage in a cardboard ambulance and promptly confuse a diarrhoea sample for chocolate milk.

When the show gets going with a series of experiments and skits, it fast becomes engrossing (emphasis on the gross). From inflating a pair of pig lungs with a length of hose to sneezing talcum powder over the audience to demonstrate the spread of germs, there’s serious science behind the brotherly banter.

Things get surprisingly poignant when Dr Xand shares some of his terrible school reports and tells the children they should never accept the labels they’re given. He was written off as ‘stupid’, he reveals, but managed to turn things around thanks to a love of swimming.

This openness combined with a palpable passion for the subject matter more than compensates for the rather rudimentary staging. The extensive use of clips from the show in particular is a pity – especially considering their anti-screen message.

The brothers are at their best when they keep things simple, essentially offering the best science lesson a child could hope for. And at a time when NHS staff numbers are dwindling, the government should be funding Chris and Xand for their recruitment efforts. I imagine my daughter was far from the only child who left the theatre determined to emulate her medical heroes.


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Engrossing and entertaining live version of the popular CBBC show about the human body