REVIEW: Man on the Moon, Sage Gateshead

Rita, Nora and Terry listen in as Bob talks about his journey to work on the moon by rocket.
Rita, Nora and Terry listen in as Bob talks about his journey to work on the moon by rocket.
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“Ladles and gentlespoons...welcome to the Bob Fan Club.”

I’m sure many families will already be fully-fledged members, but for those with youngsters still to discover this series, the children’s books follow the adventures of Bob and his friends as he works to keep the moon nice and clean so it shines in the sky.

But Bob is an alien denier.

According to him, they do not exist, which prompts much hilarity as he works to clear up the mess he says has been left behind by space tourists and astronauts, while a bunch of extra terrestrials litter away.

In this case, they are Rita, Terry and Nora, who star alongside diligent Bob as he takes the audience of his fan club through a typical day of travelling from earth on his rocket to the moon, putting in a shift around his lunch break, and then heading home for bath time and bed.

Throw in some music, songs, a joke telling session, a dance routine and a cross-stage cartwheel or two, and it’s a cracker of a day out based on the first of the Bob tales.

Bob, as he takes a moonwalk during a shift in Simon Bartram's Book, Man on the Moon.

Bob, as he takes a moonwalk during a shift in Simon Bartram's Book, Man on the Moon.

My friend, her two little ones, aged five and three, and I headed along to the Sage to catch one of today’s shows. I loved the attention to detail, even though the set was quite straight forward

If you’ve seen any of Hebburn-raised author and illustrator Simon Bartram’s work, you will know how intricate it is, as well has how he uses colour.

Here, they managed to squeeze in those little features, from a framed picture of Bob on show, just like on his mantle piece, to that nod to Simon’s favourite football team Sunderland, thanks to the pin badge on Bob’s woolly pullover.

The colours of his rocket and the craters on the moon were exactly right too.

The subtle outfits of the trio of storytellers, who Bob fails to recognise as martians, were also brilliant, as was Bob’s spacesuit - it was just like the one in the book.

We’re in on the joke, so spot the antennae on Nora and Rita with ease, unlike Bob, and there were huge giggles when Terry takes off his top hat to show an entire head of wiggly, colourful spirals.

We also loved the gloves they wore, which had flashing lights in their (alien) fingers.

It was easy as learning the order of the planets when it came to getting to know song words and dance moves too.

I’ve previously seen another theatre version of the story, which I saw at a theatre in London around five years ago. As a disclaimer, I’m friends with Simon’s sister, but that puts all the interpretations under greater scrutiny.

Just like this show, it might have been for children, but it was far from low brow. It was one of the funniest and clever performances I’ve ever seen.

This new performance has been commissioned by New Writing North and is completely different, but just as creative and ingenious.

Calum Howard (Terry), Samantha Norris (Nora), Claire Tustin (Rita) and Matthew Gundel (Bob) and the behind-the scenes team do a great job of entertaining what must be a tough crowd to keep enthralled.

If you fancy sending your youngster on a trip to the stars, then roll up for your rocket tickets.

Shows are still to take place at Durham Book Festival on Sunday at 10.30am; Chester-le-Street Library at 2pm on Wednesday, October 28, at 2pm; The Robin Todd Centre in South Hetton at 10am on Thursday, October 29; Trimdon Station Community Centre on Thursday, October 29 at 2pm and South Shields Central Library on Saturday, October 31 at 2pm.

For more details visit www.manonthemoontour.com.