Review – Boing Meow!  – Liverpool Theatre Festival at St Luke’s Bombed Out Church

FOLLOWING hot on the heels of The Monkey With No Bum, Asa Murphy launches his most recent book for children ‘Boing Meow!’ with a stage adaptation that features great storytelling, some catchy songs and even a sprinkling of ballet.

Auntie May has lost her ginger cat Stanley and enlists the help of the audience in discovering where he is. As usual Stanley has gone off looking for a place to have a nap, but everywhere he settles something goes Boing, waking him up with a start and a loud Meow.

As with all good stories for younger children, Boing Meow! is filled with repetition and reinforcement of sounds and phrases, and in a live show this affords plenty of opportunity for audience interaction. Auntie May roots out her diary (a copy of the new book) and takes us through Stanley’s earlier exploits in search of a cosy spot, and each time we learn a little something – kindness maybe, or the importance of friendship – before ‘Boing!’ and the audience are off again with their hands in the air.

Auntie May is played in a beguiling Scottish brogue by Sam Conlan, who not only has the patter and the ability to improvise his way around an unpredictable audience, but a great voice to deliver the songs that pop up along the way. The biggest test of any children’s show is how well it engages with its target audience, who in this case are a crowd of the harshest critics any performer is likely to meet – very small children. Conlan passes this test with flying colours, and by the time we get to the appearance of Stanley (who pops up when May isn’t paying attention) the audience are screaming at the top of their lungs. This is a sort of pantomime-style performance that relies on repeated gags to get a noisy vocal response, and for a solo performer to get the children on-side so quickly and hold them there to the end is no mean feat.

Midway there is a callout for volunteers to come up and make animal noises and, after a terrifying tumbleweed moment, the first toddler to go to the front is followed like dominoes until it seems half the audience are onstage. Conlan, alone onstage maintaining control and even some dignity amidst a horde of small people, can now add child wrangler to his CV!

There are a couple of cameo appearances from the author as D.J. Moggy D (which lead into a slightly surreal rap routine) and, of course, there is Stanley the ginger Tom himself, brought to life by dancer Laura Jones.

As a brand new show made from a brand new book, Boing Meow! is surprisingly well polished already, and there’s little doubt that it will continue to delight children in other venues for some time to come.

Star rating – 4 stars

Review by Nigel Smith