Home of theatre, performance and circus since 1975, Jacksons Lane, a theatre housed in an imposing Grade II listed red-brick church a stone’s throw from Highgate Station, has been a key cultural hub for North London for 40 years—and an obvious choice for local mums looking for entertainment for their offspring.
When we visited in February, we saw Pat-a-Cake Baby by the talented Long Nose Puppets, a theatre company co-founded by Polly Dunbar, author of Penguin and CBeebies favourite Tilly and Friends. (The show has left Jacksons Lane, but its tour brings it back to London—to Watermans in Brentford on the 7th of May, and to Hammersmith’s Lyric on the 23rd of September.)
One of the first theatre shows my children ever watched was their puppet production of Arthur’s Dreamboat—with a soundtrack by Tom Gray from the band Gomez. Four years on, the CD is in the top ten in our house, so I was really looking forward to seeing their latest show.
If you’re not familiar with the book, it’s by Joyce Dunbar with illustrations by Polly, her daughter. The puppet show lifted characters like Jelly Baby, Allsorts Baby and Candy Baby off the page and onto the stage. Seeing this trio of sous-chefs popping up from behind mixing bowls was my son’s favourite part.
A baby chef, cute cupcakes and a long-eyelashed cow, singing of her love for the moo-oon (my daughter’s favourite part) made the show every bit as watchable as The Great British Bake Off. As the show went on, the set became more sparkling, with sequins embellishing everything; the moon wearing a pink, glittery tie; and the disco ball above casting a shower of shining stars overhead.
I especially loved the way it ended with the cow, the cat and the fiddle, the dish, the spoon and the moon—now awake and dancing on legs—coming together for the grand finale. Remind you of a certain nursery rhyme when a little dog laughed to see such fun?
After the performance, there was a chance for children to meet the puppets up close. On leaving, we stopped off to eat at the café within the theatre, a perfect pit stop for child-friendly meals at reasonable prices—and no one will mind if your children can’t always sit still.
Circus is a particularly strong suit at Jacksons Lane, an official venue for the annual London International Mime Festival as well as the international CircusFest in association with The Roundhouse. Upcoming performances include juggling, sword swallowing and hula hooping in Around, a magical show (for ages four and up) that makes its London debut this month as part of the Sirkus Finnish showcase.
Jacksons Lane is also host to visiting shows by other like-minded London theatres, creating original performances for children. Little Angel Theatre’s adaptation of Tim Hopgood’s colourful book Wow! Said the Owl is an upcoming show in April to look forward to, suitable for children as young as two.
I highly recommend a visit to Jacksons Lane for its great programming for little ones and, with its tiered seating and grand Gothic architecture, there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
For more information, including upcoming performances, visit Jacksons Lane’s website.