Mum duo bringing Quentin Blake to the stage to tackle stress of taking kids to theatre

Katie Russell and Rachael Richards of Gaga Theatre

Katie Russell and Rachael Richards of Gaga Theatre - Credit: Archant

Gaga Theatre co-founder Katie Russell talks about localising the family theatre experience and bringing the price down

“It’s not that expensive to go to the theatre these days, there are £10 tickets released every day!”

If you can take time off work to queue for 3 hours in the morning.

“But you can book tickets online for only £25!”

If you don’t mind having your view blocked by a metal bar / pillar / the rafters (delete as appropriate).

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Theatre tickets on the West End are among the world’s most expensive, sometimes reaching the dizzying heights of £250 for one seat. Add a programme and obligatory interval ice creams and you’re looking at the price of a weekend mini-break to Split.

For parents with young children, going to a West End show has become little more than a pipe dream.

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“If you want to take your kids to Matilda, you’ve got to have a whole lot of money,” says Katie Russell, co-founder of Ga Ga Theatre.

“If you have two young kids, taking them to the theatre and getting them on and off the tube is really stressful.”

Tired of the expense, hassle and limitations of enjoying good theatre with their kids, Russell and business partner Rachael Richards set up the Ga Ga Theatre Company to bring quality theatre closer to home.

The first run of shows, with an adaptation of Oliver Jeffers’s Up and Down about a boy and his penguin friend, toured Picturehouse venues around London.

“We wanted to localise high quality theatre so you don’t have to travel too far.

Our first show was so successful, we brought in great numbers and great people. In Hackney we had sell out shows at the weekend and it was such a fun experience. It got us going in the right direction.”

This year’s production, Mrs Armitage and the Big Wave, is an adaptation of Quentin Blake’s much loved picture book, which will see Ga Ga Theatre return to the Hackney Picturehouse.

“I’m a huge theatre fan. I just had a baby a year ago, and I feel that imagination is hugely important for children. To be able to imagine and create things is such an essential skill, whether they want to create a show, if they want to create a business or create a solution to a problem.”

Russell’s love for theatre was born at an early age and it is this that drives her and her partner to deliver a full experience to the children who see their shows.

“When I was about seven, I went to see Phantom of the Opera at the theatre with my dad and I loved it so much. After the show I bought the CD and sang along. It was about extending the experience. It’s not just the hours you’re there, it’s about the imagination that it creates after the show.”

Following the show, Russell sends activities to do at home so it can “become a bonding experience as a family”.

With physical performer Clare Barrett as Mrs Armitage and Sophie Crawford as Breakspear the dog, Quentin Blake’s book will come to life with his illustrations projected onto the screen behind.

The show’s crew are experts in creating theatre for young audiences, with Adam Barnard directing, Julian Butler composing the tunes and Verity Quinn as set and costume designer.

Despite involvement in their university Footlights productions, you won’t see Russell or Richards up on the stage at the Picturehouse.

“Rachael’s a wonderful dancer and I used to sing really well, so in combination we’d be probably quite good but not the whole package. I certainly wouldn’t pay to watch us on stage!”

At least, not for the price of a West End ticket.

Mrs Armitage and the Big Wave shows at the Hackney Picturehouse on Sunday October 9 at 10am and 12pm. Tickets:

Ga Ga Theatre has set up a discount code for this performance. GAGAHACKNEYPH will give 15 per cent of ticket prices for both Sunday performances.

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