Puppetry magic brings Bing and friends to life in Blackpool

Mention Bing to any family with pre-school kids and you're guaranteed to get a knowing smile in response.

Friday, 18th January 2019, 12:06 pm
Updated Friday, 18th January 2019, 12:10 pm
Bing Live!

The show’s protagonists may be animals – there are bunnies Bing, Coco and Charlie, elephant Sula, panda Pando plus their carers, Flop, Amma and Padget – but they’re really just like little people: excited tots lapping up the messy, happy moments that make up pre-school life.

When producers mooted the idea of Bing Live! – which will be brought to life by magical puppetry at The Grand Theatre, Blackpool, on February 2 and 3 – they called in Tahra Zafar, the animatronics and costume maestro whose career has included working on blockbusters like Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The 53-year-old said: “We had to find a way to turn much-loved, animated animals into stage-sized beings that are large enough to tell a story but also small and relatable enough for really young kids who are used to a telly-sized Bing.”

Costumes and puppet designer Tahra Zafar

Tahra admits to feeling “a huge sense of responsibility” whilst working on Bing Live! because its toddler ticket-holders are “very likely to be on one of their first ever forays to a theatre.”

She added: “I’d love for Bing Live! to get kids feeling that creative ‘wow’. That’s why I’m really passionate about working on pre-school theatre.

“Bing celebrates the details of life, when it’s alright for things not to go well, because that throws up another opportunity. It’s the opposite of the perfect life that we’re all meant to have.”

Making Bing and friends has been a gently slow, old-fashioned process; Flop alone took Tahra and her team four months to create.

She added: “We had someone knit a prototype Flop, then a specialist lady dyed wool the perfect colour, then another knitted more prototypes, then we developed Flop’s puppetry.

“On stage, you see one finished object but many different people with different skills have been involved in creating it.”

“I love that puppets, like the characters themselves, are expressive, forcing us to suspend our imagination, and all be like children.

“We’re all going faster and faster in modern life, and it’s important to have those moments to quieten down - I hope that’s what Bing Live! lets families do, so that the adults of the future will look back on and say, ‘I remember going to see Bing at the theatre in Blackpool, it was one of my really happy childhood times.”

- Minor Entertainment presents Bing Live! at The Grand at 1pm and 4pm on February 2 and at 10am and 1pm on February 3.

Tickets from £15.50.