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Little Howard's Big Show

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

What are the chances? The very same afternoon I have a ticket for Little Howard’s Big Show, there’s also a man in from the Ministry, an evil-eyed joy-vacuum who will throw Britain’s only human/animated six-year-old double act into prison for 100 years if they don’t produce an hour spectacular enough for its billing.

Will any of their set pieces persuade him? Will the cartoon sidekick’s cavalcade of insects, the Royal Monkey Philharmonic Orchestra, or Big Howard Read’s attempts at magic, singing and comedy (despite being diagnosed as ‘clinically unfunny’) be enough to change his mind?

Our po-faced pen-pusher is going to have a tough decision. There are some great moments of fun and invention here, but the show never quite builds up momentum – a problem slightly exacerbated by the pauses that creep in when interacting with the screen, which are small but enough to affect the comic timing.

It’s harder to gauge what the pint-sized target audience think; the youngsters can seem distracted, although they clearly relish the slapstick moments such as Big Howard repeatedly thwacking himself on the head with a frying pan. But although Read’s not averse to easy-button-pushing, such as this scene, or a skit about poo, there are some pretty nifty jokes in the writing, too, Often based on smart-but-silly wordplay, they should appeal to both adults and kids, but the reaction seems muted in this large venue that’s underpopulated despite the Howards’ CBBC fame.

Despite their human-cartoon differences, there’s some nice banter between the amiable pair of dolts – and it’s often unclear who is the sidekick and who is the star. Little Howard is the idiot savant, cheeky and mischievous, and often more astute than his exasperated guardian.

The show wobbles along the line between chaotic fun, and just plain chaos, with the vagaries of the generally impressive technology adding another element of risk. It might benefit from being more slick, but then it might also lose some of that home-grown charm on which it is so dependent.

Review date: 18 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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