Numberjacks, EFT, Review
The Numberjacks, usually seen on the BBC Cbeebies TV channel, is a playful introduction to the world of numeracy for those yet too young for a formal education. In the award-winning TV series, villainous characters such as The Number Taker, Spooky Spoon and The Shape Japer, create number, size and shape-related problems for the heroic Numberjacks to solve. Children, known as ‘agents’, phone in to report strange goings on and the colourful, animated, Numberjacks decide which of the numbers 1 to 9 they will send out to help.
The set for the live performance was colourful and bright with pastel scaffolding presenting different levels, with large, 3D numbers, a variety of shapes and some pictures of the baddies from the show dotted about. As the ‘Numberjacks are on their way’ theme tune faded, the Number Taker skulked across the stage, stealing the number 4 as he passed through, and with that the show started.
Instead of the Numberjacks, two characters named Jamie and Astra were introduced as the main protagonists and in true children’s entertainer style they were fun and bubbly and did their best with a format that largely failed to make the transition from screen to stage. When these two began experiencing the usual mix-ups reminiscent of the TV show (Jamie brushing the floor with his toothbrush and mopping his teeth for instance) the Numberjacks were called from his mobile and appeared on a screen high up and centre stage - just like watching them on TV in fact!
So we saw the Numberjacks on screen a couple of times, but when the numbers were sent out to help, they appeared on stage large and padded but without faces or being able to talk. Perhaps in an attempt to recreate the all-important interactive element of the Numberjacks, when the number 3 was sent a girl emerged from the padded number and performed during the remainder of the show as a Numberjack turned into a human shape! Having come to see the ‘Numberjacks Live on Stage’ this was a little hard for me to swallow - but maybe the audience of mainly pre-schoolers bought it.
The children were encouraged to join in at various points and some did enthusiastically shout from their seats as instructed. The show had many features of the traditional pantomime, with lots of ‘he’s behind you’ and even an ‘oh no it isn’t, oh yes it is’ etc. But without the sparkle, excitement or festive cheer this seemed a little tired and lacking in imagination. Which I think just about sums it up!