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King Kong for Kids

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by Ruth Henwood (subscribe)
I am a mum of two and Primary School teacher whose aim is to never be home during the midday movie. I believe that I am only ever a car trip away from an adventure.
Published January 13th 2014
Making the experience more child friendly
The musical and theatrical production of King Kong has resonated with little children all over Melbourne. Five, six and seven year old kids who may have no idea as to who or what King Kong is, let alone the tale behind it have become fascinated by his magic. I have one of those six year old children. She has been pleading to go since way back when the giant puppet first took to the stage at the beautiful Regent Theatre. I held firm and refused. I was worried that she would be frightened, overstimulated and irritated by the volume and the lights.

I was basing my decision on pure hearsay in truth and like many parents the thought of spending loads of money on a ticket for her just to have to leave half way through was not ideal. However she continued asking repeatedly and eventually after chatting with other families who had taken kids of a similar age I decide to give it a go.

So finally her wish came true and off we went, hand in hand on a date with King Kong. It was amazing, spectacular and brilliant. I'm so pleased we went and that she had the opportunity to witness the immensity of King Kong. I'm also very grateful it turned out as uneventful as it did, although there were moments panic would have been clearly visible across my face. If you have a small fan and are contemplating taking them to the show here is my top tips to making King Kong a little more kid and family friendly.

King Kong, Regent Theatre
Watch out King Kong here comes Timmy the Tasmanian Devil

1. Bring snack food and a cuddly toy.
If it was all to go badly at least there was a bag of coloured popcorn in my handbag and that should by previous experiences have given me at least another 20 minutes, hopefully by which stage she was happy to stay abit longer. The cuddly toy taking the adventure to Skull Island with us was Timmy the Tasmanian devil, clearly a match for King Kong if need be. If it wasn't my arm getting a squeeze then it was Timmy getting a cuddle and he did get a few.

2. Earplugs.
It is a very loud production, obviously a massive roaring and angry ape needs to be audible, but in general the music, sound effects and singing are similar to that of a rock concert and little ears may find it uncomfortable. If you can buy ear plugs before hand from the chemist I would highly recommend using them or if you can't, a little Vaseline on cotton wool supposedly works. We tried iPod earplugs (in hindsight it was never going to work but I couldn't find the fluffy, pink earmuffs) but the old act of fingers in the ears was Miss Sixes preference. I shovelled in the coloured popcorn for her dutifully at these times.

3. Booster seats.
These are available on request from the usher or they will walk the aisles giving them out. Just raise your hand and one will be given to you. Alternatively try booking an aisle seat whenever possible, I always attempt too. This makes it easier for little heads to lean out if a big head or hairstyle is blocking the view, gives easier access to the walkway during interval for a few gallops up and back the auditorium and emergency toilet runs are less distracting to other patrons.

4. Pre-show discussion.
We talked in lengths about her expectations of the show and what might actually happen on stage and in the story. I focused on things I thought would be most unnerving for her, like the volume, the lights, particularly the strobe and the fact that King Kong was a puppet being operated by talented puppeteers. We also spoke about the story as being created out of someone's imagination and that giant apes did not exist or rule islands. This little bit of background knowledge and assurance allowed her to feel more prepared and therefore less apprehensive and surprised.

5. Early departure.
Be prepared to leave early if it all goes pear shaped, it's more likely to be a success if you are relaxed. Nobody needs the anxiety of trying to keep a child calm who is obviously frustrated or distressed.

6. Look at the Program.
Super expensive at $25 but a great complement to the show. We studied it before the start of the show and again at interval and ticked off what we had seen and what was yet to come.

7. Play up the role of the puppeteers.
By highlighting and pointing out the amazing puppeteers during the show who are hard to look away from, a powerful focus or distraction was created. There were a few times she and I would quietly talk about the ropes and pulleys or the leaping and movements of the puppeteers themselves when she was feeling uncertain or losing concentration and it worked really well. She enjoyed and appreciated having an escape and was soon pointing things out to me.

This is certainly no Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or Mary Poppins but it doesn't claim to be. This is a more mature show based at an older audience and they do recommend patrons be aged from 8 up, but there are still lots for younger and interested kids to admire, enjoy and be engrossed by. If you are still thinking about going then don't wait too long and buy tickets now as time is running out with only a month until this spectacular leaves Melbourne. If you decide to give it a go with a small one, I hope it is a great success and an outing enjoyed and remembered by all. Don't forget to pick your jaw up off the floor on your way out, oh and your coloured popcorn too!
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Why? For a less stressful theatre experience with kids.
When: Tuesday 7pm Wednesday 1pm & 8pm Thursday 8pm Friday 8pm Saturday 2pm & 8pm Sunday 3pm
Phone: 1300 111 011
Where: Regent Theatre Collins Street Melbourne
Cost: Prices range from $55 - $145
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