A FRIEND came into work the other day having taken her kids to see the latest sensation in school holiday child entertainment.
Translated that means the latest instrument in parental torture.
A live theatre adaptation of a popular cartoon series centred on a big cuddly thing. Could have been a pig or a banana or something in a skivvy.
Regardless of the ‘‘type’’ of thing, it promised epic intellectual adult engagement revolving around such hard-hitting issues as to whether the thing should wake up, or go to sleep, or tie its shoelaces. My friend looked drained.
I shouldn’t laugh because kids really enjoy these shows.
As do the companies that exploit them via cheap, yet overpriced, hammy, corning theatrical extravaganzas.
Does that sound a bit harsh?
The look on my friend’s face the other day didn’t seem to say so.
To be frank, she seemed over it and indeed warned me ... not another word.
I knew where she was coming from though, and that’s why I laughed.
She’d been traumatised.
It had been years since I’d had sat through B1 or B2, or Hi Five, or The Hooley Dooleys, or any of the other members of the golden generation of children’s entertainment.
And I’ll be honest, I hadn’t missed it much.
I thought it might have run its race, actually.
That notion of grown-up actors, possibly Shakespearean trained, dressed as giant colourful caricatures saying dorky things with daggy dances – surely that loses appeal over the generations?
Only if you grow up, it seems.
To be fair, groups like The Wiggles taught my kids to say words like ‘‘hot potato’’ and ‘‘Dorothy’’ and ‘‘wake up, Geoff’’, to name a few.
But I no longer hold that against them, although I did for a number of years.
It seemed like a form of North Korean brainwashing at the time.
But again, I’m not being negative because no one held a gun to my head.
I’d never endorse such violent imagery in relation to children.
I might have tied some cold spaghetti, cold spaghetti around my neck.
But never a gun to my head.
The kids were more subtle than that anyway.
They just looked up in your face with their big doey eyes as if to say: “Run with it Dad, it’s a chance to get us out of your face for a morning.”
And credit where it’s due.
The Wiggles, seasoned musos and qualified school teachers, were wily enough in the ’90s to realise that there was a generation of parents desperate for someone else to look after their kids for an hour or so while they grabbed a coffee.
So they released a number of albums about nothing in particular and spawned an international billion-dollar entertainment phenomenon while continuing to avoid getting a real job.
Hats off to The Wiggles, and all the imitators that followed.
They were serving a rich purpose, their own, and one not without danger.
In entertainment circles they say you should never work with kids or animals.
When you’re doing children’s entertainment, there’s obviously kids.
And when you’re a parent taking your kids to these shows, you sometimes need to be an animal to get a park.
So, children’s entertainers go out on a limb. And they can never predict what sort of reaction they are going to get.
I remember a Bananas In Pyjamas show on the Central Coast – not quite Woodstock, or Glastonbury – but memorable enough for this reason.
My darling daughter was sitting there agog unaware that B1 was sneaking up on stage to give a trademark surprise.
When my daughter saw this banana, at least three metres in height, towering over her, she had what can only be described as a psychotic episode.
Thankfully she came back from it.
Unlike my first and only attempt to be a child entertainer. Santa, at a Christmas party for a community group we were involved in at the time.
Word went out during morning tea that they were looking for a man to do the gig, and being the type of community group it was, I was about the only bloke there.
So I got the gig.
Part of me looked forward to this precious moment where I could interact with my young darling daughter.
Trouble is, she had never seen Santa live.
And so when I appeared with the dodgy gumboots and bad beard, and pillow under the red shirt bearing some creepy resemblance to her father (the glasses might have been a giveaway), she began screaming and running.
Distressed, I gave chase.
This did not help the situation.
Her horror went to a new level, both visual and audio.
Talk about bringing the house down. On my career as a children’s entertainer
You’re playing with live ammo when you venture into that arena.
Best if it’s left to the pros, even if it doesn’t seem that way at the time.