Atmosphere is everything when it comes to theatre for babies, and Caroline Bowditch and Company hit all the right notes with Snigel and Friends. Upon arrival, the babies are immediately calmed by Zac Scott's gentle nature-themed sound design, while co-creator and designer Laura Hook's beautiful setting, all soft light and brightly coloured fabrics, provides stimulation for wide eyes and curious fingers.
Snigel the snail (Bowditch), is already in the space as we enter, quietly munching lettuce leaves off a washing line. It's one of a host of sweet and subtle moments we're treated to over the course of this 40-minute show, in which Snigel is joined by pals Cecil the cicada (Scott) and Alex McCabe's Hachi the bee, all three of them resplendent in Jenny Lööf's inventive costumes.
All this invention and subtlety is wonderful, but much of it is wasted on this audience of under-ones, alas. Set in the round, most of the action of the first half takes place at too great a distance for it to have much of an impact. When a couple of them go crawling in for a closer look, the ushers ask parents to keep the babies out of the space – frustrating for all concerned, particularly given that they're then actively invited to play there for the final 10 minutes of the show. This is their first work for children, and their inexperience shows.
It's a minor criticism though, and one that's forgotten as the show goes on, with Snigel and co. moving closer to engage directly with babies, delighting with bubbles, floating material, jingling bells and more. When it's time to go, no one wants to leave.