Izzy! Wizzy! It’s not just Town Hall that has sock puppets

We gave our arts correspondent BELLA BARTOCK a second class rail ticket to Tunbridge Wells to see The Sooty Show before it arrives at the Fairfield Halls next month

Children’s entertainment built around scatological remarks, gratuitous violence and spraying the audience with liquids seems particularly English.

Sooty Show“Izzy! Wizzy! Let’s get busy!” as a catchphrase certainly sums up just how much boundless energy Richard Cadell, the owner of the Sooty franchise, throws into this show. This is a performance with its traditions firmly based in Edwardian end-of-the-pier shows – Harry Corbett, Sooty’s originator, bought the original glove puppet from a shop along the Blackpool prom in the early 1950s.

Anyone who watched any of the original Sooty television shows on the BBC will now be drawing their state old-age pensions, and it is more than 20 years since the programme last had a regular tea time slot on one of the terrestrial channels. But the formula from Britain’s longest running children’s TV programme has altered little. On stage, The Sooty Show is your – or your under-eights’ – personal invitation to Sooty’s birthday party.

At just 90 minutes long (including the interval) the performance is well-suited for its younger audience. With much energy to expend the short show suited its adult audience in Tunbridge Wells, too.

At the Tunbridge Wells Assembly Halls, it seemed the adults were even keener than the children to be involved in the very participative event, jumping up frequently and with enthusiasm to perform nursery tunes and exercise “Head, shoulders, knees and toes”, when prompted.

Cadell and his team get an amazingly expressive performance out of the hand puppets such that you believe in their interaction with Cadell and his jousting remarks like “you haven’t got the legs for it”.

Sooty is renowned for his water pistol and if you want a soaking, do book the front row seats, though Cadell runs around the audience with enthusiasm tooled up with the liquid dispenser so that few miss out on a drenching.

Sweep just loves sausages and is cool on his saxophone and in performing Lady Gaga’s Poker Face, demonstrating how efforts have been made to bring the whole thing up to date.

Soo seems a little bit vain in all her different dresses and you have to wonder whether three’s a crowd for Sooty and Sweep when Soo’s around. The puppets’ endless wait for the never arriving Mr Slater suggests that there has been some absurdist influence Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

And the entertainment does not end on stage. Cadell continues to give to his audience after the show, as he and Sooty pose for pictures with admiring children. And adults.

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