Days Out – Not Now, Bernard at The Unicorn Theatre

For anyone unfamiliar with the story of Not Now, Bernard it is a cautionary tale for both parent and child.  Bernard is bored and wants the attention of his parents but both are busy and respond with ‘Not Now, Bernard’ even when he tells them there is a monster in the garden who is going to eat him.  Master ATWWAH was given the book for Christmas and really enjoys reading it with us as we sympathise with poor Bernard and cry ‘oh no’ as the monster eats him.  So, when Mr ATWWAH saw that the Unicorn Theatre were putting on a production of it he got tickets.   I was a bit more reticent as I’ve only just convinced Master ATWWAH that monsters aren’t real.

Not Now, Bernard book cover

Not Now, Bernard by David McKee (Andersen Press)

The Unicorn Theatre is on Tooley Street in London (a very short walk from London Bridge station) and is primarily aimed at children/young people of all ages with lots of different productions and term time/holiday activities.  Its website has a full rundown of ‘what’s on’ as well as a handy age guide so you can work out what is more appropriate for your children.

As Not Now, Bernard is only 24 pages long and is primarily a picture book with a few words per page I was wondering how painful dragging it out for 45 minutes on stage would be but once in there it didn’t feel like it was dragged out at all.  The set was very simple but included giant painted pictures taken from the book showing Bernard’s parents which the guy who played Bernard interacted with and a voiceover played his parents with the ‘Not Now, Bernard’ line. Despite a man playing Bernard, rather than a child, it worked.  He wore the clothes which Bernard has on in the book and also when he was eaten by the monster it was obvious the monster was being played by Bernard.  See what the moral of the story is there???  Master ATWWAH kept shouting out ‘Bernard is dressed as the monster’ which definitely took some of the threat of the monster away.

That is another great thing about The Unicorn Theatre;  children aren’t encouraged to be totally silent.  They weren’t at this play or the one we saw over Christmas.  The actors interact with them, not in a panto type way, it’s more subtle.  For instance at the start of the play Bernard is sitting on the floor playing with his feet looking directly at the audience and it transpires that his feet can make little noises and even talk much to the delight of the audience.  It just puts children at ease from the outset especially when you are talking about under 5’s.

As well as the theatre there is now a new, small soft play area which can be used before and after the performance and a café which unsurprisingly  has a range of food that both adults and children will appreciate.  We picked up a Not Now, Bernard programme for £1 which folds out into a poster and also shows some photos from the ‘making of’ the show and opportunities to colour in monsters and draw your own.  There are usually associated craft events too that take place around the performances which you can join in with.

I can’t decide if tickets are expensive or not.  Under 21’s, e.g. children, are £10 which is pretty reasonable when you consider how much you might pay for soft play but versus a day out at a museum it’s pricier and adult tickets are £16 each (there are concessions for students/over 60’s and the unwaged)

I definitely recommend Not Now, Bernard for your 2-5 year olds and there are still tickets available in April and May.

You can easily make a trip to the Unicorn Theatre into a full day out due to where it is.  It’s a very short walk from the Thames and the various attractions around there including HMS Belfast, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.  There are also lots of family friendly restaurants in the area too which cater for all tastes and budgets.

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