Sarah Jones and her young children enjoy a modern children’s classic at the Wyvern Theatre, Swindon

My six year old daughter was very excited to see the advertisement for the ‘Dear Zoo Live Tour’ coming to The Wyvern Theatre in Swindon. With the recommended age being from 2+, I thought she might have been a bit old, but as I still remember the classic book from my own childhood, I wanted to go too. My five year old was equally excited as he had just read the book in his reception class at school.

Rod Campbell published Dear Zoo in 1982, telling the story of a boy, Ben, and his friend Sally, who write to the zoo for a pet. Clearly, health and safety in 1982 wasn’t what it is today, so the zoo happily obliged, sending all manner of animals. Of course, zoo animals don’t make great pets – something the show goes on to explain with a series of songs and many repeated phrases from the book such as ‘I’ll send him back’.

There are many times in the show the children are encouraged to join in, by hopping out of their seats and stretching up tall like a giraffe or roaring like lions to scare the animals away. There was also lots of counting, in which the audience were encouraged to participate – something my five year old very much enjoyed – counting everything in sight is a big part of his school life!

The stage echoed the bright, bold artwork of the book. Every time a new animal was delivered, the instructions on the colourful animal crates were carefully read to the young audience, even down to spelling out Z-O-O.

The show was an hour long (which felt about the right length) and at the end there was a bonus meeting with Ben, Sally and the cheeky monkey – a real treat for the children. And despite my initial worries that my six year old may have been too old, she wanted to watch the whole show again immediately. As for my five year old, well, he fell asleep in the car on the way home – all that counting, singing and imitating zoo animals was clearly exhausting!

I would highly recommend the show, which runs at the Wyvern Theatre in Swindon (which is a really nice venue, with a café/bar and cheap parking nearby) until 18 March. Find out more by clicking here.