Michaela Strachan’s Really Wild Adventures, at The Haymarket, Basingstoke, on Saturday, April 6
THE DADS of Hampshire must be big fans of poetry, because I observed far more of them in the audience than turn out for most family shows. And they were so devoted to their children as well; queuing patiently to allow them to meet the lovely Michaela Strachan after the show. A truly heartwarming sight.
I am being a bit cheeky there, of course - Strachan has a place in the hearts of many (both men and women) who grew up in the 80s when she was a presenter on Children’s BBC’s Really Wild Show, as well as the cult late night ITV clubbing show The Hitman And Her. I must admit that I was pretty excited to meet Strachan myself - she was central in developing my fondness for earrings at a tender age; as I told her baffled young niece when I discovered that I was sat next to her during the show.
...Really Wild Adventures is based on Strachan’s book of poems of the same name, which in turn are inspired by her own experiences encountering wildlife in all parts of the world for various nature programmes - she will soon be back on our screens presenting BBC’s Springwatch. This was no gentle poetry corner-style performance though; Strachan’s stage show was full of fun, music, audience participation and even acrobatics, as she hung upside down in gravity boots to recite her poem about Wrapped Up Bats.
Strachan’s poems are not just full of facts, but also reflect the emotions drawn from encounters that have genuinely touched her, such as meeting orphaned elephants, rhinos and orangutans; and the thrills of removing a tooth from a polar bear and getting really close to her beloved African penguins on the coast of South Africa, where she now lives.
Her enthusiasm for the natural world was displayed with affection and joy, and although the show was aimed at ages three to 10 (and, I would suggest, more appealing to the younger end of that span), the parents were sparked by her enthusiasm as well - although, oddly, not enough for many of the dads present to volunteer to come on stage to imitate animal noises or play the part of a spitting cobra or an anesthetised polar bear. Luckily, Strachan’s mum was present, and proved herself to be as good a sport as her daughter, who bounced around with as much life-affirming enthusiasm as she did on the telly back when we were young.
- First published in the Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, April 11, 2013