Review 2016: The Rattler at The Anvil

Thank you very much to Rebecca, one of the NHM writers, for her Review today.

Review 2016: The Rattler, Saturday 24th September, Haymarket theatre, Basingstoke.

After enjoying my last trip to the theatre a few months back (my first in over 10 years!) I decided to take the brave decision to drag the entire family along to see The Rattler, a family friendly operatic retelling of Rumpelstiltskin by the Mahogany Opera Group. After a few hiccups (namely getting the time and location wrong) we arrived in a rather stressed out state seconds before the performance began.

Normally in this situation one would be embarrassingly squeezing past rows of people uttering a plenitude of apologies, only heightening the already climatic stress level. (Did I mention my 3 children are all 5 and under!) However, our arrival could not have been further from that reality.

We were greeted by the cast themselves, and invited to join in to what soon became apparent was a parade of children, complete with musical instruments and decorated sticks that had been made in a craft workshop before the show started. They immediately put us at ease, and the energy and enthusiasm of the cast captivated my three boys from the start. It was this energy, along with the clear passion that the cast had in the story, that kept their attention throughout the majority of the Opera.

Even my 5-year-old, who is notoriously hyperactive (he rarely sits still for longer than 10 minutes at a time) managed to stay engaged. In fact, towards the end he was transfixed. It was an easy to follow storyline for the younger audience with interactive singing, an amazingly talented cast and overall a great introduction to Opera.

And it wasn’t just the children who were captivated. I literally could not take my eyes off the puppet ‘The Rattler’. I am in total awe of not only the design of such a puppet that actually gave me nightmares that night!

But I was also blown away by the way that the incredibly talented cast moved him, such that I had to keep reminding myself that he wasn’t real. For me he really did steal the show and hats off to all who were involved in his creation and movement. In the words of my 4-year-old ‘I loved the dinosaur!’

AS I’ve said in previous reviews, live theatre, opera especially is not for everybody. Their aim is not to be universally appealing to the masses. They take risks and sometimes this means alienating some.

I am in no doubt that the risk they took by making the Rattler so eerie will put a few people off. (Although I should mention at this point that the recommended age is 7 and above.)

However, it is when we take risks that remarkable things are achieved and I can wholeheartedly say that The Rattler is nothing short of remarkable. I can’t wait to see what they do next!

Don’t miss out on future posts like this – you can receive updates directly to your inbox by email by adding your email address to the box on the top right of this page and hitting subscribe. 

Proteus Creation Space!

Hello NHM followers, my name is Mary and funnily enough I’m one of three Marys that now work for Proteus Creation Space. We really should have one of those awful signs above the door that’s says, “You don’t have to be called Mary to work here, but it helps!”

I’m really excited to have the opportunity to write a guest post for the NHM blog as when I tell people I work for Proteus Creation Space, all too often the response is, ‘what’s that/where’s that etc?’, and in my job as the new Marketing Manager I’m making it my mission to, (over time!) change that.

What is/ who are/ where is Proteus Creation Space?

I started my journey with Proteus little over two years ago after moving to Basingstoke from London and stumbled across the Proteus Theatre Company moving into the building formerly occupied by Fairfields Art Centre. Located on Council Road, opposite the All Saints Church, Proteus Creation Space is a dynamic, creative arts hub in the heart of Basingstoke.

During my pregnancy and maternity leave (I’m mum to a little bundle of fun, just over one, called Alex!) I became a regular customer at Aristology Cafe, which resides in the building, often taking in the local art exhibitions in the gallery space, frequenting the cool vintage market and taking my little boy along to the annual in-house Christmas Show for under-5s.

What struck me was how many friends I have made in the past two years just by popping in now and then, the friendliness of everyone who works, uses and generally ‘hangs out’ in the place and the fact that no-one bats an eyelid when little ones decide to have a total meltdown.

For mums it’s a real gem in amongst the chain coffee shops that make up the majority of the town centre, offering something quirky and individual. Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding friendly, baby changing facilities and an ever expanding programme of regular classes for babies, toddlers and children.

I guess that’s why I decided to apply to work for Proteus, as it really is a beacon of culture and creativity in Basingstoke and as it played a part in my positive experience as a new mum, I wanted to be part of its ongoing success (and hopefully other mums will have a similar experience)


On a bigger scale however Proteus Creation Space provides a real community resource offering an extensive programme of classes, workshops, events (from Burlesque nights,  to Vintage Fairs!) and exhibitions, along with in-house Theatre Productions we also provide a space for emerging and established performing artists to come and develop and then showcase their work to Basingstoke audiences.

The best way to find out what is going on is to pop into the Creation Space

I have listed some key events and classes for families at the end of the post.

Who are Proteus Theatre Company?

Resident in the Creation Space in Basingstoke, Proteus is a national touring theatre company that has been supporting the diverse communities across Hampshire and Berkshire for more than thirty years. From rural villages to socially excluded young people, it creates amazing experiences, promotes and advances education and enriches lives through the performing arts.  The company produces a minimum of three touring productions each year and the Winter Family Show is always a highlight.

Proteus also runs a successful Youth Theatre and an adult participatory theatre group (The Proteans) who put on an annual Summer Shakespeare production as well as other projects throughout the year.

Proteus runs a number of projects for those with additional needs, both within the Creation Space and throughout the wider community. One such example would be ‘Artistic’, an art based group that runs on Saturday mornings for children over 8 who feature on the autistic spectrum. All this work is charitable and absolutely vital, but the core funding we receive from local authorities only covers our basic costs, leaving very little to go towards the projects or improvements to facilities. We are therefore keen to work in partnership with local organisations or businesses to ensure these projects are sustainable for the future.

This really is only a snapshot of the many diverse projects and community events that Proteus provide and I have already managed to write an essay! (Did you know that Proteus created the Basingstoke Festival Carnival and have been one of the key organisations running all the exciting events for the Festival?)

I hope you will pop into see us soon!

Up and Coming Family Events

Baby and Mummy Yoga Tuesdays at 10:45 Contact Contact Kati Krivnak: 07450 226719 |

Vintage, Handmade and Artisan Fair Sunday 13th September  (11am-3pm)

Stories from Space – Interactive Story-telling with puppetry.  Saturday 26th Sept (10am, ages 4+)

Puppet-Making Workshop – Make your own creature from space. Satuday 26th Sept (2pm, ages 8+)

Little Red and The Wolves – Winter Family Show for ages 5 and Up. Thurs 17th  Nov (7pm),  Fri 18thNov (7pm) Sat 20th Nov(2pm), Wed 24th Nov (7pm for those with additional needs)


Plus performances in local community spaces.

Look out for our in-house Christmas Show for Under-5’s – we will be able to tell you all about this when our new brochure is ready at the end of September.

Contact : Proteus Creation Space, Council Road, Basingstoke, RG21 3DH 01256 321621

Facebook: ProteusCreationSpace

Twitter: @ProteusCreation

Don’t miss out on future posts like this – you can receive updates directly to your inbox by email by adding your email address to the box on the top right of this page and hitting subscribe. You can also follow NorthHantsMum on Twitter,Google+,Facebook PageFacebook Profile, LinkedIn and Feedly. I hope to see you there! 

Review 2014: The Gruffalo at The Haymarket

I was VERY lucky to be invited to review a number of places within Festival Place this weekend.

You can keep up with the latest activities at Festival Place via Facebook, Twitter and their website.

I am going to be publishing all of the reviews throughout today so look out for them!


Gruffalo at the Haymarket

Festival Place is a great shopping centre and has so much on offer.

So I was delighted when I was offered the chance to review a performance of the Gruffalo at The Haymarket in Festival Place.

Unfortunately Miss NHM wasn’t.

Last year we went to see “Room on a Broom” at the Haymarket and much as I enjoyed it, Miss NHM (who was two and a half at the time) spent the whole time wrapped around my neck wimpering. She’s a bit of a wuss (like I was at that age) which those of you who were at the NHM Meet Up on Friday would have seen! lol.

After the performance she did say that she really enjoyed Room on a Broom but I haven’t taken her to a performance at the Haymarket since.

I got completely confused and thought the performance was at The Anvil. We could have possibly got away with it had been at the Anvil.

I did think that maybe now that Miss NHM was a year older (three and a half) she would be ok. She wasn’t.

We had complete meltdown when she realised where she was and she refused to even go into the theatre.

The Haymarket team were fantastic and said I could rescheduled the performance so I asked my lovely friend Sophie who has been a long time supporter and Guest Blogger on NHM, whether she would like to take her little girl instead, so the review could still be done.

Thank you very much to Sophie for stepping in with less than 45 minutes before the performance started and thank you for your fab review below!

Here are her words!

The performance

Three ‘storytellers’, four simple costumes and five pieces of scenery equals an hour of engrossing entertainment.

I took my three year old daughter and nine year old step-son to the Haymarket this morning to see the Gruffalo.

They both enjoy reading and/or watching The Gruffalo on a weekly basis (I have had to put a limit on it as I found myself quoting the story randomly throughout the day) so I was intrigued to see how they would respond to a live version.

Well, they loved it!

The story telling included all the lines from the book with extra lines and a few songs interspersed.

The costumes were (very) simple but made the characters easily recognisable and also added to the character accents used – upper class fox, RAF owl and Spanish (possibly Mexican as I’m not great on accents) rattle-snake.

There were also some great snippets of humour to do with this characterisation which totally went over both my children’s heads but had me giggling.

All in all it was a very simple but cleverly put together show which we all enjoyed and which has given me the push I need to make sure I don’t miss the next Julia Donaldson live show.


On a practical level

I was a bit stressed to be arriving at the Haymarket at 10:30 thinking there would be queues not to mention fitting in toilet stops before the hour long performance. (Louise – I gave poor Sophie 15 minutes notice, so I’m not surprised she was stressed! lol).

I needn’t have worried, the staff were so well organised it took just two minute to pick up our tickets and there were plenty of toilets (and a baby changing room) on both floors so there was no queue here either.

The ushers were really helpful; pointing out an alternative set of stairs, double checking the seat numbers as they were a bit faded, fetching a booster seat for my little one (which had two heights – not seen that before) and pointing out to my step-son that he had forgotten his coat.  I am sure I would have noticed, eventually!

The volume was just right, I was really surprised at the level of the volume at the cinema the last time we went and I was worried this might be the same.  The loudest noise was my daughter joining in with the Gruffalo song.

The lights also stayed at a good level so I could always see how the children were reacting to the show.  I didn’t have to delve into my bag for any child related items but I am sure I would have been able to find them if I’d needed to.

Tthank you very much to Festival Place and The Haymarket for organising our tickets!

Disclaimer: This post is a review of The Gruffalo at the Haymarket Basingstoke and is in conjunction with Festival Place. Our tickets were supplied free of charge for the purposes of the review.

I (and Sophie!) were not expected to write a positive review and any opinions expressed are our own.


Newbie Cinema at the Odeon

I love going to the cinema (as long as the people in the cinema don’t talk or eat loudly all the way through – yes I’m old and yes the eating and talking thing reaaaaally bugs me) so I was delighted to find out about the newbie cinema sessions when I was pregnant.

Miss NHM first went to the cinema when she was 3 weeks old. I remember the film vividly, Chalet girl, I think because the whole experience reminded me that I could still retain a very small part of my pre-parent life. It hasn’t quite worked out that way once Miss NHM got to six months old and was too wriggly for the cinema but I was back to work by then so couldn’t have gone to the newbie session on a Tuesday anyway! Lol.

My Ante-natal friends and I used to try to go to the newbie session every Tuesday. It started at 11.15am which was just the right time to get up and get mobilised without feeling like you had to rush. Many, many times I had a breakfast of popcorn at the newbie session :-D.

I liked the sessions because the sound was quiet and nowhere near as loud as the cinema normally is and because the lights were dimmed so you could breastfeed without judgement and still see what you were doing.

Plus it felt good to be doing something adult and grown up and not something that was all about my baby, like everything seemed to be at the time.

My husband even managed to come along once or twice. He even took Miss NHM on his own, when I had to go back to work, for the two weeks when he was off work and she wasn’t too wriggly for the cinema.

Another benefit of newbie cinema was the cost. It’s much cheaper to go to the newbie cinema than the regular cinema, no one cares if your baby cries and you get free tea or coffee if you would like it. Generally none of the free biscuits though as you could guarantee that the gerriatrics for the senior session, which start 15 mins before, would have scoffed them all.

If you have a newborn or a baby and like going to the cinema, I really recommend going to the newbie session. If only to pretend you have a small semblance of your old life left 😉

Newbie Cinema at the Odeon