A cheerful tale of primary kids

19th July 1996 at 01:00
THREE CHEERS FOR MRS BUTLER!. Polka, The Children's Theatre, Wimbledon, south London.

Anyone who wants to show children how drama and poetry are relevant to their lives should take them to Three Cheers for Mrs Butler! at the Polka Theatre where director Vicky Ireland has revived her adaptation of Allan Ahlberg's poems about life at a primary school.

Using dialogue, recitation, dancing and song, this play is fast, funny and sometimes moving while its subject matter - including the classroom hamster, infants' assembly and a nit inspection - is totally familiar to the child of the 1990s.

This is a fine introduction to the fun of live theatre, and schools which previously lacked funds for Polka visits received free seats during the last term thanks to sponsorship from Flik Flak Swiss watches.

Those who saw the production first time round will appreciate the topical references to Euro 96 and the absence of beef on the school menu as well as the company's greater sharpness and verve.

Two replacements in the cast bring improved sing-ing from David Broughton-Davies as the jolly headmaster and gleeful naughtiness from Colin R Campbell as the appalling boy, Derek Drew.

Dystin Johnson's exasperated but kindly class teacher continues to convince and Paul McCrink's pathetic Nigel, who is never picked for any team, moves many to tears.

Three Cheers for Mrs Butler! runs until August 17 at the Polka Theatre, 240 The Broadway, London SW19. Tickets and information: 0181 543 4888.

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