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Isabella James

Review: CHOCOLATE CAKE at Polka Theatre

Chocolate Cake - Polka Theatre This musical adaptation of Michael Rosen’s poem ‘Chocolate Cake’ is perfect for little theatre goers who love silliness but hate tomatoes. Using lots of Rosen’s original text but adding some plot points and catchy musical numbers, Peter Glanville and Barb Jungr take the audience through a day in the life of Michael.

From breakfast with brother Joe, to Miss Goodall’s classroom, then break time with Harrybo and bath time with mum. But, the real action takes place after lights out, when Michael decides to sneak downstairs (watch out for Lego on the corridor!) and nibble some of Joe’s birthday cake.

Food is obviously a huge theme in the play and although the eponymous chocolate cake has its time to shine, the real magic happens inside Michael’s brilliant imagination. Which makes sense because he does grow up to be one of the UK’s most famous children’s authors. Lots of stage magic is used to bring Michael’s thoughts alive, including shadow play, projections and a bubble machine. Director Peter Glanville does a great job of using these simple techniques in a theatrical way to create awe amongst the audience.

Every single member of the three-person cast bring Michael’s story to life with such energy and likeability. Todd Heppenstall jumps in and out of roles lightning fast, but each character is so totally defined it never becomes confusing. Aminita Francis plays Michael’s mum who is every little kid’s dream mother; kind, loving and an amazing baker. And she lets him lick the bowl! Michael is played by Mark Houston who manages to nail the tricky ‘adult playing child’ problem by being incredibly amiable, enthusiastic and a pleasure to watch. The musical ability of the cast is also something to be applauded, as all three work together beautifully for musical numbers such as ‘Bake-Off Winner’ and ‘Full as an Egg’.

The stage design is elegantly simple and the overall aesthetic of the show, from costume to chocolate cake, is bold, bright and 100% Michael. This show is all about imagination and it creeps into every element of the production from direction to performance to design. Even quite young audience members will get something from this show, and older ones will probably leave with a craving for cake!