The Polka Theatre is an amazing place to take kids. It is one of the very few theatres in Britain that is dedicated exclusively to putting on productions specifically for children. The Polka started out as a touring theatre company back in 1967, with a speciality in puppetry. Due to its popularity, they established as base in Wimbledon in 1979. The theatre puts on original plays, and adaptations of some of children's most beloved stories. The Polka has a modern style because they don't just retell classic fairy tales, but also look at the more immediate market. Past productions have included characters from television and books such as Pepper Pig and Charlie & Lola.
The theatre promotes learning through interactivity, including resource packs for school trips, after show talks, and holiday workshops. I remember doing these workshops when I was young, and it was a great way to socialise, especially for an only child like myself. My memory is fairly foggy, but I'm sure we made our own costumes (I think I was a lion), and props for the stage. I once won a writing competition, and went there to receive my prize. The event started with a talk by one of their patrons, Malorie Blackman OBE, who wrote the children's novel, Naughts and Crosses. It was a fascinating talk about her struggles to get into the writing market.
After the talk, the winners went on stage a received a CD of all the winning entries read out by actor, Timothy West, and other personalities. The main stage is quite daunting (there's also an Adventure stage for much younger children), with very steep steps (you don't want to be going up them in stilettos). They are actually quite dangerous, I think, and not ideal for children (for little legs it's like climbing Mt. Everest).
To a child, the main foyer is like walking into Wonderland (or a version of Honey, I Shrank The Kids); giant toys litter the room, including an old style rocking horse, and a nostalgic teddy bear collection with the likes of Winnie The Pooh, Sooty, and Paddington Bear. There is also a toyshop.
Next door to the theatre, the Polka has its own cafe. I can't say I'm that impressed with it to be honest. From the outside it kind of reminds me of the cafe the losing team go to in The Apprentice. Inside it is a lot brighter, with seating cubicles made to look like the carriages on a train. I ate there once and had chips, but they tasted horrible because I accidentally put sugar instead of salt on them. Admittedly this was my fault (although the salt and sugar shakers were not clearly marked), but it sort of ruined my liking for the place. Don't be put off by my experience though; I recently looked at the menu and they don't even seem to do chips anymore. They do, however, have kid and adult sized English Breakfasts, toast, jacket potatoes, pasta, sausage & mash, plus a selection of sandwiches. The cafe also do children's tea parties.
The Polka Theatre is suitable for any child from 0-13, and its opening hours are:
If you are interested and want your kids to take part, there are a number of shows and activities taking place now and over the holidays.
Sticks & Stones
28th September - 27th October
6th October - sign language showing
13th October - after show talk
Inspired by the August riots last year, Ali Taylor wrote a stage play about a group of children caught in the middle of it all. Their friendship is put to the test as they face some difficult decisions, and face the question of what it means to be a child of this time.
Running Time: 1hr 5mins
Little Sunshine, Little Rainfall
29th September - 5th October
In a celebration of Japanese culture, this play takes place in a magical garden. Everyone is getting along well until the arrival of Storm Fox. What will Little Sunshine and Little Rainfall do to save their home.
The Puppet Man chose the wrong day to put on a show; it's very windy and his hat gets blown off. But this isn't just any hat; it's a magical hat, giving dreams to anyone who wears it.
Running Time: 50 mins
Too Many Penguins
17th October - 16th February
20th October - 14th February - toddler version.
How many penguins are too many? See how many penguins can fit into one space.
Running Time: 40 mins
Red Riding Hood
30th October - 10th November
31st October - baby show
Enjoy the twist on this classic fairy tale. Red Riding Hood and her brother go to spend the night at Grandma's house. But while Red wants to sleep, her brother is more interested in what's in the attic.
23rd November - 16th February
24th November & 28th December - baby show
1st December - after talk show
8th December - sign language show
4th January - autism friendly show
Toad is obsessed with causing havoc, and it is up to his friends, Mole, Ratty, and Badger to save him from the weasels. Come and enjoy the adaptation of Kenneth Grahams enchanted story of the Wild Woods.