The Deep Sea Seekers made me nostalgic for all the best kinds of ‘learning and fun’ kids’ shows. It perfectly balances interesting facts with utter silliness, taking all the Deep Sea Seekers in the audience, both young and old, on a dive into the ocean’s depths.
After travelling through space and time in their previous shows, the Seekers this time focus on an environmentally friendly message, searching through the waves for the lost components of an ocean cleaning machine, while seeing some of the problems with plastic waste in the sea. The story is told through a combination of catchy songs, short sketches and audience participation.
While everything in the show is fun and effective, it is the songs that really sparkle. Not only is the music throughout cool, funky and incredibly layered, and the performers talented musicians and singers, but each song has its own fun quirk. Whether that’s the dance routine of the opening number or the quickly improvised musical introductions to fish created from audience suggestions, it keeps the show fresh and exciting. The peak of this is when German techno DJ ‘DJ Anglerfish’ samples audience members saying the name of their favourite sea creature to create a new club banger (available to the audience when they get home through a web link). It is touches like these that demonstrate the way the show centres its young audience, with both conventional audience interaction and more original ideas pulled off with a clear care for all the Deep Sea Seekers in the audience.
The natural way the cast have during audience interaction is particularly evident before the show even starts. With lots of the audience running late one of the performers (Vardy) was left to ad lib to fill time, learning about the audience’s sea-related interests and expanding with strange and wonderful facts about subjects from jellyfish beaks to island beaches. It was smooth enough that until the door closed I thought it actually was the interesting (if slightly unusual) beginning of the show. The cast have the perfect mix of taking the young audience seriously and acknowledging that sometimes children can say things that are unintentionally funny or deeply weird. Anyone fond of the absurd comic stylings of the Kids Write Jokes Twitter account (@KidsWriteJokes) will be delighted with a section where the audience are invited to make Waylon the whale laugh – highlights in the show I attended included ‘Why did the road roller squish the kitchen? To make a road;’ ‘A whale smashed my house;’ and ‘How does a penguin eat? Its friend’.
The aforementioned Waylon and DJ Anglerfish are great examples of the hilarious and charming sea-dwelling characters that inhabit the show. Each character is created with a well-balanced sense of physical and vocal comedy, with each – from a luminescent jellyfish seen only for a couple of seconds, to the Deep Sea Seekers themselves, to T-Bone the teapot fish who creates slime (a creature created from audience suggestions) – feeling utterly silly while also completely engaging.
The ocean is fascinating in a way that exactly appeals to young imaginations – strange and big and occasionally disgusting. In this show The Wardrobe Ensemble make wonderful use of this to create something that is weird and fun and sneakily educational. It is a wonderful watery treat.
The Deep Sea Seekers was on at The Wardrobe Theatre from 17-22 April. More info here.