Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

How to be a Kid

Sarah McDonald-Hughes
A Paines Plough, Theatr Clwyd and Orange Tree Theatre production
The Lowry, The Roundabout, Little Hulton
07 September 2017 to 10 September 2017

When she was younger Molly (Katie Elin-Salt) thought she was a super hero. Now a big girl of twelve she knows better. But actually Molly is a hero; her mum is suffering from chronic depression following the death of her Nan and so Molly single-handedly is keeping the household running, including looking after her hyperactive brother Joe (Hasan Dixon). But there is a creeping sensation that Molly is becoming old before her time and forgetting how to be a kid.

The Lowry’s objective of encouraging wider community interest in theatre by basing the mobile pop-up The Roundabout in the surrounding region is perfectly realised with How to be a Kid. The script by Sarah McDonald-Hughes is aimed at a younger audience who may be unfamiliar with theatre but will find it easy to relate to Molly’s mixture of affection and irritation with her younger sibling and her growing bafflement at her mother’s behaviour.

The story is structured as a child’s fantasy adventure, complete with free Happy Meals and even a car chase. The feelgood ending, in which Molly’s mum simply gets better, may not be completely satisfying but this is probably in deference to the tender years of the audience.

In recognition of the attention span of the audience director James Grieve sets a giddy breathless pace. The youngsters, being already familiar with many of the techniques used by Grieve from pop videos, have no difficulty getting drawn into the play and are clearly chuffed at being addressed directly by the cast.

A large part of the success of the production is due to the willingness of the cast to go all-out to secure audience involvement. Before the show starts they are chatting to the audience and throughout push themselves to make sure no-one is bored. The youngsters, perhaps recognising one of their own, adore being charged by Hasan Dixon’s gloriously hyper Joe or encouraged to hold (and hand back) imaginary props .

Katie Elin-Salt is an excellent heroine. She brings a mixture of innocence and growing maturity to Molly, making clear that, while she does not recognise just how remarkable it is that she is coping with the pressure, she is beginning to realise that all is not well at home and work out how to help. 

It is probable How to be a Kid is the first time that many of the audience have been to the theatre and is an excellent way to start.

Reviewer: David Cunningham