Quick! If you’re at a loss of what to do this weekend, I can recommend The Baby Show as a weirdly good day out (not something I ever thought I’d say!). I was invited by Johnson’s Baby to enjoy the exhibition at the NEC Birmingham on Friday 19th May, and really enjoyed myself. After spending a Sunday earlier in the year at the Caravan and Camping Show and being a long time lover of the BBC Good Food Show, it seems I’ve become rather fond of a big buying fayre. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, or maybe it’s because I don’t get much chance to get out shopping these days, but either way… having all those major baby related brands under one roof, with the luxury of a mass baby changing area, feeding station and quiet breastfeeding room was a bit of a treat.

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As we had to drive past Beckett’s Farm on Easter Saturday on our way to mac Birmingham to see Elmer, it made perfect sense to drop by and say hello to the baby animals they have there. The Easter holiday animals at Beckett’s Farm are somewhat legendary around here, and although we attempted to go last year, we were foiled at the first hurdle as none of us had the right cash to get in and they weren’t accepting card payments. So this year, LPD and I went armed with a handful of cash (although, for only £1 per person and under 1s going in free, not much cash was required!) and a camera to capture Pickle’s first farmyard encounter.

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It seems we can’t get enough of a good thing, as after our successful trip to Cinema Bambino last week, we were back at mac Birmingham for Elmer by Riverside Performing Arts. As nervous as I was that Pickle was perhaps nearing the top end of the age bracket for Cinema Bambino, I had the opposite fears for Elmer as it was promoted as being for Aged 3+, and Pickle is not even 1 year old yet… but he’s been so enthralled by the other theatre productions that he’s seen that I thought it was worth the risk. And despite a couple of minutes when I genuinely thought ‘oh god, what have I done?’, I think he did enjoy himself!

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As the weather begins to brighten up, what have I decided to do more of? Watch films in a darkened room, of course! On what was possibly the nicest day of the year so far, we spent a couple of hours nestled snugly in mac birmingham‘s cinema watching Beauty and the Beast and I don’t regret it one bit as their Cinema Bambino screenings are truly brilliant.

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We had a VERY special beginning to the month as on Wednesday 1st February, Pickle and I were treated to a wonderful experience: his very first theatre visit. A friend from school (who you can find on Instagram: @justrosey56) won tickets to see Oily Cart‘s In a Pickle at Warwick Arts Centre and was kind enough to invite us to join her. I knew of Oily Cart’s work from my University days but hadn’t ever seen one of their performances before, so although I had an idea of what to expect, I had no idea how Pickle would take to it and what exactly would be involved.

I only need three words to sum up the afternoon: it was magical.

Neal Houghton credit In a Pickle Oily Cart

The loveliest sheep I’ve ever met! Credit: Neal Houghton

The performance is based upon Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and begins with some of the friendliest sheep I’ve ever had the luxury of encountering inviting all the children (and their eager parents) to join in a sheep shearing party. After a whirlwind of sensory excitement, a lost baby is found and the adventure begins in returning the precious princess to her castle home.

Baby Princess In a Pickle

Credit: Neal Houghton

The show is designed with 3 – 5 year old children in mind, so I was somewhat apprehensive about taking my eight month old baby into it (and slightly fearful that I’d be told to leave!) but I needn’t have worried. Oily Cart know what they’re doing, and with so much to see, listen to, touch and smell, Pickle was enthralled the whole time. He even fulfilled all five senses by having a little chew on one of the carrot fishes too! There were a few other families there who had younger and older siblings encountering the show together so Pickle and his friend Rose weren’t the only babies in arms there and I was genuinely impressed with how they all behaved. I had armed myself with a few handheld snacks to be used as bribes to keep him quiet if needs be, but they remained in my bag the whole time.

sitar music In a Pickle

The music was incredible and I especially loved Sheema Mukherjee’s sitar playing. You can have a listen to some of the songs in the YouTube video below. Credit: Neal Houghton

Weirdly enough, this production was commissioned by the theatre I used to work for before having Pickle, the Royal Shakespeare Company, so it feels somewhat serendipitous that this particular production was his first theatrical experience. And WHAT a weird coincidence that it has Pickle in the title (‘in a pickle’ is actually a phrase coined by Shakespeare).

 

If you’d like to catch this production, the next leg of its tour is in Canterbury from 8-12 February 2017 before it excitingly heads over to America in April and May.

Barbara the Shepherdess In a Pickle

Katherine Vernez as the Shepherdess Barbara was probably my favourite! Credit: Neal Houghton

Whether you’re a seasoned theatre goer yourself, or you’ve never set foot in an auditorium before, I can’t recommend this show enough as a first encounter of culture for little ones. I’m already on the hunt for the next baby-friendly show to take Pickle to, and I can’t wait to continue what I hope will become a lifelong love of his.

babies in Ikea highchairs

I think his cheeky, snack-smeared face just goes to show much he enjoyed himself! A lovely photo of Pickle with his new friend Rose after the show.

Our review of children's theatre In a Pickle by Oily Cart at Warwick Arts Centre