CBeebies' Mr Tumble is coming to town
As he prepares for a new touring show, Nifa McLaughlin talks to Justin Fletcher about the appeal of Mr Tumble
Why do you think Justin and Friends: Mr Tumble's Circus is such a success?
A lot of thought went into it and the reason is that it's based around Justin and Friends – and the most popular character by far is My Tumble. If you look at him and what he is all about, he's about being a clown and children love clowns. In past shows we brought Mr Tumble on in Act 2, but this time he comes on much earlier, which kids really love.
Any surprises in the live show?
There are lots of speciality circus skills, which children will love. It's so exciting for children to be in that circus atmosphere. In the show we have loads of clowns, juggling, stilt walking... The circus theme really lends itself to the arena and the exciting phrase 'the greatest show on earth'.
Can very little ones enjoy the show?
One of the key things we do is appeal to the whole family – although the show does use amplified sound so parents should take this into account. Mr Tumble particularly is loved by all age gaps. The fact that he signs, his bright outfits and the humour really appeal to all. Little brothers and sisters often come along with eight-year-old siblings and they all enjoy the show. You've also got to remember that while little ones are just discovering Mr Tumble for the first time, their older brothers and sisters have grown up with Justin's House and Gigglebitz. I've been going for 23 years and it's amazing to appeal to all these different generations of kids. Essentially all children love the same thing. Lots of time when we're brainstorming, we think 'what will the family enjoy'?
So are you very involved with all aspects of the show – do you contribute behind the scenes too?
I'm involved with the whole thing – I have huge filming commitments throughout the year and my time is always pressing, but we have big brainstorming sessions and I'm always throwing in suggestions. I give as much input as I can in terms of content and writing. I love all the visual comedy, the slapstick, so I always want as much of that as possible.
Which other CBeebies characters will children recognise in the show?
Loads! And we have debut live performances from Gemma Hunt from Swashbuckle, the pirate game show on CBeebies, and CBeebies presenter Cat Sandion. Other favourites include Andy Day, Robert the Robot, Little Monster, members of the Mr Tumble family including Aunt Polly, and characters they'll recognise from Gigglebiz such as Keith Fitt.
How do children react when they see Mr Tumble and Friends in the flesh?
The children's reactions are amazing! When Mr Tumble comes on the place suddenly turns alive with energy – it's like being at a children's rock and roll concert, it's electric. The sounds could raise the roof! Hearing that the kids love it so much, it sends a chill down my back.
What's next for Mr Tumble?
We're on series 12/13 of Something Special – we're filming the next 25 episodes, which is really exciting. It's wonderful to be involved in something that actually helps children to communicate. Also, there is a big special thing coming up that I can't talk about – but get ready for something amazing...
OK, we're excited! Where can we find out more about the live show?
We're touring UK arenas in Easter 2015; visit CBeebies Live website to see when we'll be near you.
I've also heard you're a Manchester City fan!
Ha – yes I am! In fact we once recorded an episode of Something Special at the Maine Road Stadium and the kids loved it.