Our tickets for Fox-Tot! at the Royal & Derngate were gifted to us on the basis we provide an honest review of our experience.
Yesterday, my sister and I were lucky enough to attend an opera that was slightly different from your traditional opera. The first most obvious difference was that we had our toddlers with us! This was an opera aimed at 12-24-month-olds.
Initial Thoughts of Fox-Tot!
I have to admit I was a little terrified about taking someone so young to the theatre – it seems like one of the last places you would want to take a toddler but I need not have worried in the slightest.
The biggest relief was upon entering the theatre and realising that we weren’t expected to all sit in seats like you normally would. Instead, we were shown into a room with the stage at floor level and in front of this were some small round cushions and large bench seats. It was all very casual and we were told to let the smaller children sit on the cushions and the bigger on the bench seats. The cushions themselves also appeared to be part of the set so the children were immediately immersed in what was going on. We were told that the children are encouraged to walk around, explore and make noise as much as they liked, the only restriction was that they were not to climb onto the small bit of staging at the back or touch the musical instruments which were set almost out of reach anyway. As well as the performers, there was also a man on each side of the stage that was there to help supervise any little wanderers and keep them out of harm’s way.
What To Expect at Fox-Tot!
I won’t give too much away but the Fox-Tot! story itself was about a fox cub who is exploring his surroundings through the eyes of other animals such as a cat, a butterfly and a frog. Before heading into the performance I was mainly expecting the kids to benefit from the new sound of Opera (rather than the good old 90s pop classics they are exposed to at home!) but didn’t really expect much more. As the performance progressed, however, I realised how much more they were experiencing. It was incredibly sensory, there were thousands of fabric leaves spread all over the floor and around the cushions they were sitting on which of course the children were straight into exploring. This was also encouraged by the performers that came over while we were taking our seats and gently floated the leaves down onto all of their heads! Hudson thought this was great fun, whereas my nephew was more into throwing them around himself, which was fine also.
If you like this review then check out my review of Little Learners Messy Play
Once the performance started you could see that both toddlers and parents were immediately captivated. There were just 2 main performers as well and 2 instrumentalists. The singing was loud and powerful without being too overwhelming. I have to admit I didn’t really understand the words they were singing but as the toddlers wouldn’t understand them anyway this didn’t really matter. The story was told more with actions and props which I believe is the case with most operas anyway. As mentioned before there were so many sensory opportunities. The story included the change in day and night and this was shown using 2 giant balls – a soft and furry sun and a blue and grey textured moon. These were rolled around the performance area and up to the children to be able to feel themselves. Hudson is going through a very clingy stage at the moment so didn’t really leave my side, however, my nephew is a lot more independent and he was straight out there exploring the whole performance area. At first I was a little worried that he would get in the way of the performers but instead, they fluidly adapted their performance around him. I also noticed how they observed how each child was responding and acted accordingly. If a child was not keen on the performers getting themselves or the props too close they were mindful to keep a little distance.
The performance itself lasted around 30-45 minutes and I definitely think this was long enough. Any more and I think there may have been sensory overload for some and the tears may have started. Photography is not allowed during the performance however at the end of the show the children are allowed to explore some more and photos are then allowed. This was a great opportunity for kids like Hudson who was a bit nervous or shy to get involved. He had a turn at sitting in the giant sun, saying hello to the performers and sitting in the chair that had been the main prop.
Although Fox-Tot! is advertised as suitable for 12-24-month-olds, I think 3-year-olds would really enjoy it too. My sister and I came out feeling great that we had taken our little ones to such a beneficial and educational experience and upon leaving the theatre both agreed that we would look into any other suitable theatre performances for them. I felt that Hudson and my nephew each got a very different experience out of it however equally really enjoyed themselves. The bonus was that they were both asleep within 10 minutes of getting back in the car!