Wednesday, 23 January 2019
MENTION Bing to any family with pre-school children and you’re guaranteed to get a knowing smile in response, writes Matthew Wilson.
Not just because of its popularity with tots — Bing is the top-rated pre-school show on BBC iPlayer — but because, as one parent at the playground puts it, “watching Bing is like tuning in to a reality show of my life as a mum — albeit a calmer, quieter version”.
The show’s protagonists may be animals but they’re really just like little people — excited, tripping-over tots lapping up the messy, happy moments that make up pre-school life.
For the uninitiated there are bunnies Bing, Coco and Charlie, elephant Sula and panda Pando — plus their carers, Flop, Amma and Padget.
It’s no coincidence that watching Bing and Sula squabble over sharing a balloon or dropping a just-baked cake sees the average parent wondering if the show’s producers have been eavesdropping on their parenting lives.
For as well as 23 writers, there are two Montessori teachers, four education experts and child linguists working on each Bing script.
Their aim is to create a programme that’s just as likely to teach parents a patient way to help a toddler through their tantrum as it is to give that child some quiet time in their day.
So when producers mooted the idea of Bing Live, which enjoyed a hugely successful 2018 UK tour and heads to the Wycombe Swan tomorrow (Saturday) and Sunday, they called in the brightest creative stars in their field.
After all, the TV show’s an International Emmy Award winner which lured Shakespearean actor and Oscar winner Mark Rylance to make his TV debut as the voice of Flop. With Bing Live being brought to life by magical puppetry, producers turned to Tahra Zafar, the animatronics and costume maestro whose stellar career has seen her work on blockbuster films including Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens.
The latter, says Tahra, was “a real, pinch-myself moment as I stood on set with Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, the stars I’d grown up watching, thinking ‘Wow, this is my job!’”
Tahra, 53, likewise admits to feeling a huge sense of responsibility while working on Bing Live because its toddler ticket-holders are likely to be on one of their first ever forays to a theatre.
She said: “I grew up in the entertainment industry. My dad was a choreographer and mum a dancer but I still remember one of the first proper performances I saw — Pickwick with Harry Secombe in the West End.
“I was really tiny and obviously didn’t take it all in, but the excitement and dazzle got me interested in theatre for life.
“I’d love for Bing Live to get kids feeling that creative ‘wow’ too. That’s why I’m really passionate about working on pre-school theatre.”
• For tickets and times, call 01494 512000 or visit www.wycombeswan.co.uk
07 January 2019
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