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The Sheffield culture guide written by in-the-know locals

Althea Bury (Narrator, Angel, Mama) and Saskia Rose (Anna Hibiscus) in Anna Hibiscus' Song. Photo by Chris Saunders

Lovingly adapted from the best-selling children’s book of the same name, Utopia Theatre’s Anna Hibiscus' Song is a riotously fun family show. It's one that will plant the seeds of a lifelong love for theatre among its young audience.

“I feel so happy that I could burst into a thousand stars!” is the problem we see Anna, magically brought to life through puppetry, face. We follow her as she visits various family members, asking: what do you do when you’re so happy you could burst?

It isn’t easy adapting a children’s tale to theatre. The original story and simplified pacing can be restrictive, posing the threat of erring on the repetitive. Utopia Theatre tackle it head on, infusing dancing, African drumming and infectious songs into the show. It's so high energy and engaging that it's impossible for the audience not to join in.

This is where the strength of the play lies and the performance really shines. We’re kindly commanded to get on our feet – mirroring dance routines, singing along and becoming part of the performance. The result is joy all round, with every audience member having a semi-permanent smile plastered across their face.

The children are invited to sit within the inner circle of the stage. It’s almost as entertaining watching their faces aglow with glee as it is watching the actors’ performances.

Dorthea Darby (Grandmother, Ben, Uncle Tunde) and Malick Bojang (Grandfather, Chocolate) in Anna Hibiscus’ Song. Photo by Chris Saunders

An utterly immersive, intimate piece of theatre, Anna Hibiscus' Song is lovingly crafted for children and their grown-ups alike. It's truly charming to witness such a colourful world through the eyes of Anna.

Utopia Theatre and its immensely talented team are the beating heart of the production. Born from a love and commitment to bringing traditional African storytelling and theatre to the stage, the cast and production inject so much love and care into the piece that they shine almost as brightly as a thousand stars themselves.

Anna Hibiscus' Song continues its run at the Playhouse within the Crucible until 15 July, before visiting community venues.

Suitable for ages 3+.

Performance dates:
Tanya Moiseiwitsch Playhouse (within the Crucible): 7–15 July – book now
The Montgomery: 18–19 July – book now
Terry Wright Community Hall, Gleadless: 20 July – book now
Verdon Recreation Centre, Burngreave: 21 July – booking open soon
Stannington Community Centre: 22 July – book now
Zest Centre & Sports Hall, Upperthorpe: 29–30 July – book now

Find out more about Utopia Theatre in our Meet the Locals interview with founding CEO and artistic director Mojisola Kareem-Elufowoju.

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