Saturday 2 June 2018

One Small Step Family Theatre Review at Z-Arts, Manchester

Earlier on today we were guests of Z-Arts in Hulme, Manchester, to see the morning performance of Oxford Playhouse's family theatre One Small Step. We were promised 50 years of space travel in 60 minutes, in a show that is suitable for children and grown ups aged around 7+, and with a cast of only two actors.

It was brilliant. My other half is meticulous in his detail and 'the space race' is something he knows well. We all have an interest in science, technology and space, so we were all looking forward to it. A couple of my boys were even hoping to catch the cast out with technical errors... it wasn't possible.

Using a collection of household items as props, the two-person cast portray every character and all of the necessary rockets and capsules. They create the flag left behind on the moon, and they even recreate the moon. They dress as astronauts and newsreaders, and the impressions were excellent. If they'd had James Cameron adding special effects, ultimately it wouldn't have been any more convincing. There are tons of ideas there which children can duplicate at home for free.

Every important event was covered from Sputnik 1, the first satellite. We heard about Laika the dog, Uri Gagarin and the origins of NASA. My boys have heard of The Cold War, but they now also understand how the loss of trust caused paranoia and without it the space race wouldn't have happened. My boys also now know that Richard Gordon fell asleep on a spacewalk and that Neil Armstrong really wasn't a chatty guy.

There were some horrific tragedies in the race to get man to the moon, and these are all treated with respect. I hadn't previously realised just how devastated the Russian team were by the explosion which suspended their space programme, nor how sloppy the Americans were in their rush to catch up.

I think the 50 years may be an exaggeration because really the performance climaxes with the moon landing a mere 12 years later, (with a tip of the hat to events since) but that doesn't matter. We all know that the important bits were realising the potential and making it happen. In their cardboard space suits with bucket helmets, the actors made that moment real.

One Small Step was hilarious, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. The two actors, Robin Hemmings and Shaelee Rooke were completely on-the-ball throughout. The pace was fast, but never rushed, and the history spot on. Costumes and props were inspired and simple enough for anyone to make themselves.

The age suggestion is probably right as children under 7 will be a bit young to appreciate a lot of what is going on, however they can still enjoy the show, and at one hour it isn't too long for youngsters. A fantastic show for anyone, whether you were interested in the space race before you went or not - you will be afterwards...

One Small Step was unfortunately only playing at Z-Arts today, but the team from Oxford Playhouse are touring and you can find it next at The Egg, Bath on 8th and 9th June. 

Never fear - Z-Arts have regular family theatre shows, including Minifest Fun Day, relaxed performances and Comedy Club 4 Kids, plus heaps of other activities for children and their families. It is one of our favourite places to visit and the staff always have a really friendly welcome. There's a cafe with children's carton milkshake for 29p and often there are extra activities happening which you can drop in to. Before and after today's performances there was a free 'Craft Cart' where children could make their own solar system....

Find out more about what Z-Arts do and their Bright Sparks Club membership (which offers cheaper access to shows and events) on the Z-Arts website.

We attended as guests of Z-Arts to review.

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