Theatre Review: Bluey's Big Play at Theatre Royal

Words: Jared Wilson
Friday 09 February 2024
reading time: min, words

The celebrated Australian cartoon canine family now have their own stage show. But how will the charms of Bluey, Bingo, Bandit, Chilli and co transfer over from the small screen to the big stage?

Bluey 5 (Credit Madison Square Gardens)

As a man with two children, both currently under the age of five, I cannot help but thank the cosmos for being alive at a time when there are three seasons of the kids cartoon Bluey available to watch with them on TV. 

For the uninitiated you might wonder why we’d be so interested and invested in an Australian cartoon soap featuring a a cartoon anthropomorphic dog family. However, in that giant digital bin of repetitive, patronising and often just soulless kids TV (hello Cocomelon) Bluey is that rare thing: a kids cartoon that adults can genuinely enjoy too. In fact I have several fully-grown childless friends who have also binge-watched the three series currently available.

It’s hard to explain exactly what this appeal is. A good example might be the way it subtly deals with adult themes in ways that both adults and children can understand. The kids understand that the mother figure Chilli sometimes gets sad because doesn’t see much of her sister Brandy. However, for the adults it reveals with absolute pathos that it’s because Brandy cannot have her own children and thus understandably finds it hard to be around her sisters’ happy family. These are the kind of situations you have to navigate as a parent and as an adult, so to see them delivered in such a warm and sensitive way in a children's cartoon is life-affirming.

Bluey 2 (Credit Madison Square Gardens)

Bluey’s Big Play is a brand-new theatrical adaptation, with an new story by Bluey creator Joe Brumm, and new music by composer, Joff Bush. The four main characters (6-year-old Bluey, 4-year-old Bingo, mother Chilli and dad Bandit) are all recreated as human-size puppets. Each puppet is manned by two puppeteers with various controls for the face, arms, legs and body. There’s also a guest appearance from Lucky’s dad, Chattermax, grannies Janet and Rita and a few others. 

It starts off with a big build-up of music and puppets of Australian birds. The hairs on my neck are standing up. It then goes into a long rendition of the theme tune intros, which is something most families present will have sung and danced to at home many times. We all join in. From there we have a 50-minute potter through some greatest hits, as well as a few new bits too. It all ends in a mass game of balloon keepy-uppy, which is lots of fun for everyone. 

The sets are lovely, reminiscent of the show and the changeovers between them are well managed. The puppeteering is just next-level. With a strong brand like Bluey they could have just dressed up some humans in outfits and halved the production costs of the show. It probably wouldn't have affected sales of this as none of us really knew what we were getting anyway. But instead of trotting out the kind of Bluey you will see collecting change for charity in your local supermarket, they have prioritised quality and it shows. 

Perhaps more so than the TV series, this show is one to go and see with your kids as it’s really aimed at them, not us. However, I’m happy to admit to very much enjoying this show and also feeling a bit emotional by the end too. As for the children? Of course they completely loved it. For real life!

Bluey's Big Play is on at the Theatre Royal until 11 February. 

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