Theatre Review: Sponge – Turned On Its Head

After our super successful trip to see Oily Cart’s In a Pickle, I couldn’t wait to take Pickle to the theatre again. My first port of call was the mac Birmingham website, and it wasn’t long before I had bought tickets for LPD, Pickle and I to see Sponge by East Midlands dance company Turned On Its Head.

Sponge Turned On Its Head

Louise Gibbons performing in Sponge, an interactive dance show for young children from Turned On Its Head

If you’ve ever been to my house, you’ll know it’s pretty much constantly untidy and always in need of a good clean, so I was partly hoping that taking Pickle to a show entirely focused around sponges would begin to foster not only a love of culture but also cleaning! And by the way he was grabbing hold of the sponges in the show… I think I may be onto a winner.

So, what is it? How much fun can really be had with a sponge? Well, it turns out quite a lot actually!

[Sponge is] a new malleable kind of family dance show, set to a 1970s influenced score, perfect for babies, young children and families. Sponge is about all things spongy, a child’s ability to soak information up like a sponge and the squishy, squashy texture that fascinates children and adults alike.

Throughout the forty minute performance, we saw sponges being used to mop up and to clean. We watched sponges be squished, thrown and catapulted. Sponges became snapping crocodiles, a soft comfy bed, a teddy bear, and a whole range of sized and coloured feet! Sponges helped create mystical creatures, explosions of colour, tall towering structures and walls, all brought to life by the two dancers, Louise and Shane, whose excitement, joy and openness quickly put all the children at ease.

Pickle enjoyed a game of peekaboo from behind a sponge with Louise and even took a star turn in the show by being invited to have a dance with Shane (clutching two sponges the entire time!). I may have shed a little proud Mom tear at both of these moments – the cuteness was just too overwhelming. I couldn’t believe how enthralled Pickle remained throughout the performance, especially as it’s completely non-verbal (making it accessible for D/deaf audiences too). I think that speaks volumes about the abilities of both of the performers! And judging by the laughter and joyful comments from parents all around as well, it wasn’t just the early years audience members who were enjoying themselves.

Baby playing in Sponge theatre show

I have a sneaky feeling our particular performance ended a little prematurely as what should have probably been the finale was over-run with excited toddlers who couldn’t resist getting involved in the action. Once one child had invaded the stage, many others saw it as an open invitation and soon there was no stopping them! Very wisely, I think the performers decided to cut straight to the after-show play time, and everyone was invited to discover the fun of sponges for themselves and play.

baby playing in theatre

Baby interactive theatre experience

Baby playing with sponges

I’ve never seen so many sponges in my life, and all the different colours, the theatre lights and big colourful tubs made for a really fun and immersive adventure. After a bit of a disco and a chance for LPD and Pickle to enjoy a dance together, we were soon helping to put all the hundreds of sponges back in their respective coloured tubs. A quick thank you to the dancers and we were off back to the real world.

sponges flying in the air theatre finale

A sponge explosion to finish off the free play time!

sponges in buckets

And all the sponges safely back in their tubs at the end of the experience

If you’ve never been to mac Birmingham before, you’d be amazed at all there is on offer for families there.  We had a little wander around one of the art exhibitions (Beyond the Door: The Koestler Exhibition, a collection of art made by those in prisons, secure hospitals or those serving community sentences in the West Midlands) as well as a leisurely stroll around Cannon Hill Park and a drink in the cafe. Sharing my love for mac Birmingham deserves a whole blog post of its own, but it’s safe to say it holds a very special place in my heart. Take a look at their family friendly shows and events, and use the map below to see how close it is to you. Turned On Its Head will soon be releasing their 2017 tour dates for Sponge, so be the first to hear if it’ll be coming to a theatre near you and follow them on Twitter.

We’ll certainly be planning a return journey to mac birmingham soon (I hope to squeeze in a few more Cinema Bambino visits before Pickle gets too wriggly), but will also keep Turned On Its Head on my radar for anymore baby-friendly shows. I cannot thank them enough for helping us to create such happy family memories.

Turned on its Head theatre show for children 'Sponge' is a retro 70s dance filled wonder. Pickle LOVED playing with all the sponges and we had a ball as well. Read my review.

16 Comments

  1. February 20, 2017 / 1:29 pm

    Oh my goodness! What a crazy and fab idea. I love that there are suitable shows for littles ones, so lovely to get them involved from a young age. A great experience. My only gripe is that I hate sponges!

  2. February 20, 2017 / 1:35 pm

    Ah wow this sounds utterly bonkers and therefore brilliant 🙂 I love being able to take kids/babies to something a little different like this it’s so good for them and so much fun. We are in Lincolnshire but have similar places here and some great shows for kids xx

  3. February 20, 2017 / 1:53 pm

    That looks like so much fun! Lot’s of interaction for the little ones, and dare I say, the parents?!

  4. February 20, 2017 / 1:53 pm

    What a brilliant idea! Looks like a great time was had by all!

  5. February 20, 2017 / 2:52 pm

    Wow a whole show centred around the humble sponge – who would have thought! So creative…love it!

  6. February 20, 2017 / 4:14 pm

    Oh my gosh this looks fun! My son would have loved it when he was little!

  7. February 20, 2017 / 6:35 pm

    Aw that is so cute, Pickles looked like he really enjoyed playing with the sponges and maybe you are right it will help with the value of cleaning x
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  8. February 21, 2017 / 3:33 pm

    Oh this is nice idea. I’m sure Pickles had a lot of fun. Sponges looks beautiful too but I’m afraid it might carry some bacterias which is not good.

  9. February 25, 2017 / 4:26 pm

    Excellent idea. Lots of activities on the stage and the baby seems very happy. Very adorable. And as usual fantastic photography. Just loved it:)

  10. February 26, 2017 / 10:18 am

    That sounds like an amazing idea! I love the new ways theatre companies are coming up with to get kids into the theatre earlier and earlier, looks like Pickle really enjoyed himself 🙂 xx

  11. February 27, 2017 / 9:45 am

    What a great idea for a show and so good that the kids could get involved

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