Calvinball (4 stars)

This article is from 2017


Perfectly-pitched outdoor show for toddlers hits the spot

Toddlers are natural anarchists, so they take to the almost completely rule-free game of Calvinball like small, squirming, noisy ducks to water.

Calvinball is the favourite sport of Bill Watterson's beloved Calvin and Hobbes, recreated as an outdoor show by Ipdip theatre company, who speak fluent baby. Our comic-strip heroes are notably absent, as is any real story or characterisation – this show pitches itself squarely at under-fours, specifically those who aren't particularly interested in sitting still, and uses physical clowning, a range of large fluffy props and balls (all regulation tiger-orange, in the only nod to the game's origins) and direct interaction to keep everyone engaged.

It's no mean feat to keep even one toddler focused and (roughly) static in the open air for a whole show, let alone 20 of them. The cast of three interact with each small audience member on their own level, improvising wildly, chucking in songs and dance numbers, and generously accommodating potential scene-stealers who demand to be part of the action. My own tiny reviewer loved it so much he tried to stage-invade the next performance.

Grown-ups be warned: this is not the sort of show to offer a sly wink to any adults in the audience. Switch your irony meter off and give in to the orange chaos, just for a while.

Royal Botanic Garden, until 27 Aug (not 15, 22), 11am, 2pm & 3pm, £5.


  • 4 stars

Theatre experience for wee ones. Booking is essential.