The Boy Who Fell Into A Book, and The Small Pleasures of Generous Leg-room in Theatres

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Laura and I take the children and my mother to see a matinee of Alan Ayckbourn’s children’s musical, The Boy Who Fell Into A Book at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough. I fear it will be too old-fashioned for the girls, with its references to boys who love cake, chess and Kidnapped. Rare in 2014 is the child who makes a hero of an American private eye, as Ayckbourn’s young hero does; a Premiership football player would be the closest equivalent.

They¬†are however won over by the French female villain Monique (“I like her so much that I don’t like her,” says Violet at the interval, which is the opposite of how adults feel about charismatic villains), and by the scene in which the private eye has to deal with the Wubblies, children’s characters based on the Teletubbies. The latter wins me over as well, bringing out as it does the sinister, selfish quality of some pre-school television. I could very happily have watched a whole play about that.

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Having just written all that, I’ve just paused and realised that my sharpest moment of pleasure from the afternoon really came when, on finding our seats, I realised that there was ample leg room and a rake steep enough to let everyone see. Phew, etc. Theatre reviewers rarely mention seating, but I have many visits to theatres ruined by the cramp induced by sitting with my knees near my ears; I remember just after I moved to London I went to see a production of Poliakoff’s Breaking The Silence at the Mermaid, and finding the space in front of the seats so luxurious that the aisles might as well have been paved with gold as well. Watching a play with your legs stretched out is an under-rated pleasure in my opinion, and for this alone the Stephen Joseph Theatre’s architects, and/or whoever else is responsible, are to be praised.