CBeebies star's new show at the Kings, Southsea, promises to be blooming marvellous
If you've got a pre-schooler, there's a good chance you're already familiar with Mr Bloom and his lovable talking veggies.
Now he’s heading out on tour for the first time with a show that’s going to delight your ‘tiddlers.’
Since Mr Bloom’s Nursery first appearing on CBeebies, the BBC’s channel dedicated to the very young, in 2011, the gardener has become one of its most popular characters.
Ben Faulks originally created the characters in 2009 as a piece of street theatre – the Vegetable Nannies, before a successful pitch to the BBC.
And as the actor reveals: ‘I certainly love the outdoors, but I’ve got no gardening experience myself, only what I’ve no learned through doing Bloom.
‘But in terms of my process as an actor and writer, I put together characters or productions and then play with them, so it comes from a creative process rather than a vocational thing.’
Given that Ben is from Cornwall, how did Mr Bloom end up a northerner?
‘I’ve lived in the north since ’98 and it’s just like any character, you have to give them a back story, and it just felt right when I was writing him for the street show – he was a northern gardener wearing wellies with maybe with a bit of string around his trousers. There’s no kind of secret.’
Since making its CBeebies debut, Mr Bloom’s Nursery and its various offshoots have become mainstays of the channel, and its characters often have cameos in the station’s other shows and specials, including a recent adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Is it as much of a family as it appears?
‘It’s great, man,’ says Ben. ‘It’s the most joyous TV I’ve ever done, working for that channel. You’ve got the presenters and the cast members for the different shows and it’s really nice to work together on the big productions like the Shakespeare, but it goes right through to the regular productions – every TV job is different, but this is one that it’s a real privilege to be part of.’
The new show sees Mr Bloom and his Veggies getting the nursery ready for a very special occasion – a member of the royal family is paying a visit. Mr Bloom will be joined by all his Veggie friends – Margaret, Joan, Colin, Raymond and Sebastian, and the lovable Wee MacGregors.
‘It’s the first time we’ve done a sit-down theatre tour. We did the CBeebies arena show a while back, and I also do a lot of Mr Bloom live appearances at various shows, but this is a narrative, two-act piece for the first time with the Veggies.
‘Like any new production you have to find your feet and bed in. When you finish rehearslas and tech you still need to see how it works with an audience, but we’re well into our stride now and we’ve been really enjoying it. The feedback’s been wonderful.
And the show is big on interaction with the youngsters in the audience.
‘It’s really nice for them to see the Veggies – that’s what they want to engage with, so there’s lots of interactivity and they fit right into the storyline.’
Does he have a favourite Veggie? ‘It’s difficult,’ he laughs, ‘but given that the Veggies can’t read newspapers, I’d have to say (runnerbean) Colin is my favourite, I feel a deep affinity with him and we get on well.’
And how about his status as a sex symbol for mums who watch the show with their tiddlers?
‘You never know the effect that a trilby and a pair of wellies will have when you put a costume together. But it’s nice that the show appeals to adults as well.’
The Kings Theatre, Southsea
Wednesday, April 26