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The Singing Kettle Old MacDonald's Farm

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The Singing Kettle are one of Scotland's leading childrens entertainers. They tour theatres annually throughout the UK, bringing fun and entertainment to children.

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      27.03.2006 12:12
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      Good day out at a reasonable price.

      When we saw that the Singing Kettle was coming to the Webster Theatre in our hometown of Arbroath just 2 weeks before my son’s 4th birthday we knew we had to go and get some tickets, as they are one of his favourites to watch on DVD and old videos that we had when the older girls were little.

      I know a lot of people out there won't have heard of the Singing Kettle gang so I'll start off with a bit about them, which can also be found at the start of my review of the Medieval Madness DVD.

      ***Background***

      The Singing Kettle started off over 15 years ago and used to consist of 10 minute slots on children’s TV in Scotland where there would be a bit of fun, a few songs and always a kettle to get the lid off. The crew in those days consisted of Cilla and Artie who sang along and Gary who played various instruments. It may sound basic and it was, but the kids loved it and they were soon singing and dancing along to their favourites. Artie was famous for his silly costumes and Cilla always had a different set of dangly earrings - mostly with kettles on them. A lot of the songs are Scottish based which adds to the character of this idea. They have since been joined by Kevin, who is slightly younger than the original gang and has loads of enthusiasm and energy.

      The favourite part of the show was always getting the lid off the kettle and to do this there is a very special magical rhyme - Everybody that knows it sing it with me :-

      Spout, Handle, Lid of Metal
      What's inside the Singinggggggg Kettle!!!

      Simple and easy for the kids to learn as well as their parents and there is always something inside which links to a song.

      Anyway following the success of the tv slots there were videos and touring shows all on different themes where the kids were encouraged to dress up to go along.

      ***The Preparation for the Show***

      One of the fun parts of the Singing Kettle shows is that they like the children to dress up in the theme of the show and this one was no different. The tickets stated that farm animals were welcome to attend, as were farmers. My son loves to wear his wellies so it was easy to dress him in a pair of jeans, checked shirt and his favourite blue ones to look like a farmer. It was also easier for me than making a full sheep costume.

      We arrived at the small theatre in plenty of time as my son was very excited and couldn’t wait to get there. Thank goodness we only told him about it the day of the performance or he would have had us stood outside for weeks. The theatre itself only holds about 600 people and it is about to be closed so that renovations can be undertaken. This is badly needed as the seat covers look a bit worse for wear and there isn’t really a lot of space between rows. Work has already started to the outside of it and scaffolding had to be manoeuvred round. Despite this though, it filled up quickly and easily thanks to the staff and the fact that as seats were already allocated when the ticket was bought so there was no mad queuing on the day. We were sat 10 rows back but were right in the centre so had a great view of the stage.

      All around there were lots of excited children dressed up in masks and costumes as sheep, cows, pigs, cats and rabbits as well as quite a few farmers too. This added to the fun and about 15 minutes before the show was due to start eight massive balloons were thrown into the audience, which gave the impatient children something to do before the curtain went up.

      ***The Show***

      The show started bang on time and when the curtain was raised we could see the four members of the team dressed up in farm style clothing. Cilla was dressed as a milkmaid, Artie as a farm hand, Gary as a scarecrow and Kevin as a farmer.

      We were then told that Old MacDonald, the owner of the farm we were visiting, was off to market for the day and he had asked us all to help run the farm and do a list of jobs for him whilst he was away. Old MacDonald then appeared on the stage riding a wooden stick horse. Once he was away there was a mad dash to complete all the tasks and this was done with the help of songs along the way.

      There were many different farm animals appearing at various times throughout the performance to help find the all important kettles and the children were asked to shout out the names of them as they appeared around the farm. There was a hen, a donkey, a sheep and a cow as the show progressed before ending with Nigel the Horse whose stable had to be cleaned out as one of the tasks.

      There were also 2 songs where children from the audience were asked up to participate and to dress up to perform along with the cast and although my son was not one of the lucky ones, he accepted this without any problems and sat back to watch the little ones as the waddled round the stage as ducks in the song Ducky Duddle and played various characters from The Farmer’s In His Den where instead of a dog as a pet, the children had a monkey instead who then wanted a banana.

      There were 7 tasks to be performed throughout the show and this started with the collecting of the eggs from a very funny and very loud hen. The hen was still in the process of laying the eggs, which were then thrown up from the back of the stage where Kevin was meant to catch them. Unfortunately he wasn’t quite ready for the first one and it bounced off the stage into the audience at the front so there was a lot of scrambling about from the children as they tried to find it for Artie who was ready and waiting for it’s return. Once this was done a star was put next to the task on the list and they tried to decide what to do next.

      The pigswill needed mixing and it was meant to be up to Harry to do this. Harry is the brother of Willie and they are played by Kevin and Artie respectfully. Harry doesn’t really like getting his hands dirty though so it was left for the cheeky Willie to do it. The big pot of slimy ingredients had to have some extra ingredients added and this included some brussel sprouts and one of Gary’s old socks. This caused lots of hilarity amongst the children in the audience and lots of shrieks of horror from the adults.

      After this Willie went off to mow the meadow to the song of One Man Went To Mow and Kevin came back to chop some logs. He showed us how it’s easier to use karate to do this and rather than use an axe he decided to break them with his head.

      The funniest task to be undertaken was the dipping of the sheep. For this task they needed the gang’s favourite pooch, Bonzo. He rounded up the sheep in a small pen at he front of the stage and then disappeared round the back ready to help dip them. What made this so funny was that the white sheep each came out a different colour after they had been dipped round the back and of course the children were convinced that this was magical. Bonzo then went on to ask all the kids to shout out their favourite colour so the last sheep could be dipped. There were many colours being shouted out and my son was dying for it to come out purple. I think all the children were happy though when Bonzo brought forward a rainbow coloured sheep that included all the colours the children had shouted out.

      Following the 15-minute interval we saw Cilla attempt to milk the cow. However it was a little bit different to normal as the milk came out in already packaged cartons. She joked that they came that way in Glasgow where she is from.

      The last task was to sweep out Nigel’s stable and this we could hear Kevin tell Artie that everything had to be swept up and put in the bin. With that we heard a shriek and Artie came out with a wheelie bin, with two legs sticking out. Of course they were only fake legs but the kids in the audience thought that it was Kevin stuck in there and there were lots of shouts of “pull him out” round the theatre. As the bin was wheeled backstage there were clumps of mud thrown onto the stage and Kevin appeared again looking very dishevelled.

      With all the tasks done it was time for Old MacDonald to reappear on his brand new tractor. After a final round of songs the crew said their farewells and the show ended.

      ***The Kettles***

      There were four kettles throughout and they had various things in them to link to songs. The first one had some spoons in it and Artie showed us how these could be played as an instrument. This led to the Music Man being performed with Cilla and Kevin dressed up as scarecrow musicians bringing out huge fiddles and drums. As with many old favourites the Singing Kettle gang put their own slant on things as the accordion went oot and in and the fiddle bow went up and doon.

      The second of the kettles contains many eyes and Kevin made a big thing about it being scary until he pulled out a potato. This then led to a song called vegetable soup where there was a lot of tongue twisting rhymes for us all to get through.

      The next kettle had a duck caller in it and this led to the children dressing up as ducks to perform a song called Ducky Duddle. The costumes for this song were really cute and the children were fantastic as they waddled round the stage with Artie as the daddy duck.

      The final kettle had the letters EIEIO strung together and this was right at the end so we could all sing out about all the animals we had seen in the show.

      ***Other Songs***

      There was a good mix of old favourites and new songs that we learnt as we went along. Hey Diddle Diddle, Baa Baa Black Sheep and my son’s favourite Three Craws Sat Upon a Wa’ were all sung along to by most of the children in the theatre with great enthusiasm and everyone enjoyed learning the actions to The Tractor Wheels Go Round.

      ***Our Thoughts***

      My son was delighted by the excitement of seeing his favourites on a big stage rather than just watching them on a TV screen. My day was made by the look on his face as the animals appeared from their hiding places and by the look of awe when his favourite Bonzo came out. Although he wasn’t picked to participate, he was happy to watch the other children on stage and sung along with the songs he knew.

      He loved the magic tricks with the sheep and thought it was funny to see Artie, Cilla and Gary dressed up as the Three Crows sitting on a wall. The lyrics in it include how the third Crow cries for his mother and as Kevin was singing this verse water splashed out all over the stage from the crow’s eyes. Moving to the front of the stage the tears were then turned on the audience but luckily we were just far enough back not to be hit by them.

      The set was simple and colourful with the cast members moving the gate and fences away as they entered the farmyard. Everything was done swiftly and with great professionalism. There were a couple of times where words were mispronounced but jokes were made in a way that it seemed almost as if it was actually planned rather than a mistake. This cast are well used to this type of performance though as they tour almost constantly throughout the year with different shows.

      I thought it was a great idea to send the balloons out before the show started as a few of the children were getting restless and this distracted them enough to let everyone get into their seats. The interval was just the right length for people to get any refreshments and more importantly for the children to get to the toilet and back before the second half started.

      The show lasted in total an hour and a half including the interval and we felt this was just about right as the majority of the children there were aged two to four although there were some older children there too.

      We all had a really good time and I wouldn’t hesitate to buy tickets for future shows.

      ***Merchandise***

      There are lots of items that you can buy at the show or from their website address below and I believe that a DVD will be available for £12 from April that will feature this show. As well as CDs and DVDs there are also jigsaws, cuddly kettles or Bonzos, and novelty items such as kettle earrings and magnets to buy.

      ***When It’s On and Where***

      You can find out exact dates and prices on www.singingkettle.com but this tour started last month in Glasgow and the Arbroath dates were next on the list. We paid £9 per ticket but if there are 4 of you then you can buy a saver ticket for £30. For larger groups of 10 or over the tickets are £7 each with 1 free for every 10 purchased so if there are a couple of families going it may work out cheaper to book it this way.

      The Singing Kettle isn’t only performing in Scotland with this show that goes on until August. You can catch them in Gateshead, Manchester and Derby to name a few.

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