Most parents would never take back the opportunity to be someone’s mum or dad, but you wouldn’t be the first parent to wish that your travels could still involve the occasional theatre performance (and no, not the ones that come when your child protests at yet another nappy change). Enter, the opera in London.
Savvy travellers to London know that there is lots of children’s theatre in London, and a number of options specifically for kids (including babies) to experience these type of cultural performances even before their first birthday (we’ve listed a few below).
One option, the Royal Opera House in London, a haven of high culture amidst the chaos of Covent Garden, has a wonderful children’s program where you can take the kids to see ballet, opera, or other shows designed just for kids.
Unsurprisingly, infants are not allowed to attend the main program (kids need to be over 5 for that), but occasionally the Royal Opera House runs specific ‘baby friendly’ performances – so keep an eye on the schedule. If you have older kids (six and up) you can also attend their monthly family program.
Children’s theatre is more widespread than you’d imagine.
Of course, London isn’t the only Opera House to cater for babies. In Australia, the world-famous Sydney Opera House offers occasional (about three times a year) ‘babies proms’ sessions. Gorgeous. And of course, lots of places have theatre for children – check out this marionette theatre we found in Paris. If you’re interested in this type of experience, we suggest googling “Children’s theatre + your destination” well in advance and seeing what is coming up. You might be surprised! (And if you have tips for others, leave them in the comments below!)
Back to the opera: what actually is ‘baby’ opera?
We attended a ‘baby friendly’ performance at the Royal Opera House in 2015…it was called Dot, Squiggle and Rest (from the children’s theatre company – Polka Theatre). Strictly speaking, this wasn’t really like going to the opera in London. It was more like going to a fantastic, movement-inspired, visually captivating children’s performance at the Royal Opera House in London. There’s a difference.
But for parents who may not be able to go otherwise, and kids you’d like to expose to something different, it was superb.
What happens when you go to the “baby” or “kid-friendly” opera in London?
We arrived early, excited by the prospect of taking a 10 month old to the opera in London – after all, it’s one of the world’s most famous opera venues. We made our way upstairs where a bar, a line of prams (known in the UK as buggies) and a gorgeous view awaited. There is plenty of space to hang out, so my 10 month old crawled around happily, particularly enjoying the view from the glass precipice.
It looks scary, but there was a really solid glass window between him and a large drop. Still, it was a little disconcerting, however wonderful.
Eventually, when we went inside, there was the choice of sitting on chairs or sitting on a big comfortable mat. All the toddlers seemed to opt for the mat, as did those with babies – including us.
My 10 month old was still jet lagged, so I wondered how the whole thing would go. But from the minute the three performers came onto the stage – he was captivated. From memory, the performance was about 45 minutes and he was 100 per cent enthralled the whole time.
I think that’s because the experience, from the experts at the children’s specialist – Polka Theatre – was SO tailored to kids. There were noises, lights and movement, but not so much it was overwhelming. The whole show was simple but beautiful. Of course, like the ‘real’ opera, I had no idea what the story was about, but I didn’t care.
I’d go back to this in a flash. You should too. But make sure to book – these things aren’t on all the time, and they can quickly sell out.
Other children’s theatre companies in London you shouldn’t miss:
Little Angel Theatre – we went here too, it was fantastic. This puppet theatre in Islington is specially tailored for children and while there are performances on all the time, some sessions specifically allow you to bring your baby (as opposed to the older kids of 3+ that most performances are tailored to). The actual venue is super cute – an older church-like building, with pews for the kids to sit on. (Take your time getting there, it’s a little hard to find.) And as per the Royal Opera House and Polka Theatre below, book tickets so you don’t miss out.
Polka Theatre – these guys have their own venues and are performing all the time – they specialise in performance for 0-14 year olds. Highly recommended – including by the 90,000 children a YEAR that see their shows.
Still want more things to do with babies in London? Try our top 10!
Where is your favourite place for children’s theatre or opera? Let us know in the comments in case others are on their way there!