Using the stimulus of the idea that music helps to develop a baby’s sensory awareness, Lullaby is specially designed so that mothers and babies can spend some quality relaxation and exploratory time together. On entering the Adventure theatre, you are asked to remove your shoes and are told that in order to keep it as an intimate performance, one parent and one baby are admitted per ticket. Other observers can watch on a live screen for a smaller fee. Unfortunately, on the performance that I attended, only one mother and baby were booked in (the maximum is 12 pairs), so another observer and I were given access to the cloth tent in which the performance takes place. It is explained that should you need to, you can step out of the ‘tent’ into a small relaxation area filled with lavender plants and comfy benches with your baby, and that the rule is that “there are no rules” in terms of how you want to use your time in the space.
Deviser, composer and performer Natalie Raybould, dressed in a neutral fabric similar to that surrounding the tent, begins by kneeling down and singing a haunting yet relaxing melody whilst making small interactions with the babies. The little boy who was sharing the tent with me at this point was completely transfixed, not only by the singing and music, but also by Raybould folding a caterpillar out of muslin, which, through a series of movements, becomes a butterfly. It is both beautiful and engaging for the baby. Slowly, Raybould brings in a large lit ball, and interacts with it as if she was protecting the world. Without spoiling it too much, the singing continues whilst lighting and shadows are used to enhance the mood, although one couldn’t help but feel that more coloured objects or engaging lights could have been used to help keep the babies a little more engaged whilst she steps out of the tent. It is then left to the parents to enjoy ten minutes of time with their child in whatever capacity they want. On exiting, carers are also provided with a website where they can download the music from the show.
Although the score is basic, it is effective in having a relaxing effect on the child and their carer, and in the cosy, carpeted tent, it gives a sense of a safe environment in which to play. Lullaby is a great idea to engage children from a very early age in music and the senses, but I hope that it can experiment a little bit more with the idea. The Polka Theatre which, from the outside, wouldn’t look out of place in children’s television show Balamory, uses the slogan “Where Theatre Begins” (which is very apt for this particular performance) and is the perfect venue for the show, allowing the babies to have a bit of play time before or after the show in its many nursery rooms. Overall, Lullaby is a good interactive session for parent and baby to bond, and I think is very important in providing the very young with their first theatrical experience.
Lullaby is playing The Polka Theatre, Wimbledon until 25 May 2013. For more information and tickets, see the Polka Theatre website.