I love penguins, which is why I went to see the new children’s production of Mr Popper’s Penguins without a child in tow. I don’t care. Penguin puppets – what more could you want?
Mr Popper is a man after my own heart. He is obsessed with polar exploration and knows the great explorers and their achievements off by heart (I note that in this children’s show, there was no mention of Scott dying on his return from the South Pole, or of Franklin’s crew resorting to cannibalism on their ill-fated search for the North-West Passage…). He reads polar books and watches polar films. Most of all, he loves penguins, so he is thrilled when explorer Admiral Drake sends him a penguin in the post (presumably breaking countless animal welfare laws in the process).
Captain Cook, as the penguin is named, soon settles in to life in the town of Stillwater, even winning over Mrs Popper, who is less enthusiastic about Antarctic wildlife than her husband. When he gets lonely, London Zoo sends a lady penguin, Greta, to keep him company, and soon the pitter patter of tiny penguin feet is heard. The Poppers embark on a showbiz career, wowing audiences around Britain with their wonderful performing penguins, until Admiral Drake turns up and explains they have to go back to Antarctica now (Bit harsh, sending a present and then asking for it back). Still, it gives Mr Popper a chance of fulfilling his life long dream of visiting Antarctica, so all’s well.
The children in the audience seemed to love the show, particularly the antics of the adorable penguin puppets (I have to agree with them on this score). There are a number of songs, most of which as an adult I found pretty unmemorable, though I did like the song introducing the penguins to showbiz. The set is simple, with a few chairs and a screen, and the puppeteers extremely talented in bringing the penguins to life.
Whether you’re an adult penguin-lover like me, or a parent looking for somewhere to take the kids, this is a lovely show, and as it’s coming to the West End before Christmas there will be plenty of chances to see it.