I have to admit I was quite excited when I was asked to interview Andy Day, co-creator and performer of the very popular children’s stage show Andy and Mike’s Big Box of Bananas which is coming to the Lincoln Theatre Royal on 25th October.
Andy is a legend in our house as he is part of the national institution that is CBeebies. This wonderful television channel has been the sole reason that for the past three years I have been able to take a shower by myself, do a bit of housework, even paint my nails on the odd occasion!
As my contented and happy toddler sits and watches his favourite characters and programmes for an hour or so it leaves me free to get on with a few things safe in the knowledge that my DS (darling son) is being entertained and educated for a while.
Andy and his old school friend Mike James came up with the idea for Andy and Mike’s Big Box of Bananas a few years back when they were kicking ideas around for a project that they could work on together. They had wanted to produce a stage production together for ages, something which incorporated all the things which they loved as children, with the idea of taking the show to the Edinburgh Fringe.
“We sat down and thought about what stuff we liked when we were kids,” explains Andy. “Superheroes, silliness, songs and randomness were all on the list so we came up with the idea of these two characters that lived in a flat together. This was the start of Big Bananas.
“The idea behind the box actually derived from a poignant moment in my childhood. When my late grandmother passed, she left me and each of my siblings a box with instructions not to open until we were 16.
“It was full of personal gifts and memories of her. When we came to write the play I thought of that special box and decided to incorporate it in the show, although it’s not directly related.
“The result is a fast-paced ‘pantoesque’ show, full of audience participation. It’s not just for the kids however – we get the parents involved too.”
The two friends did take the show to the Edinburgh Fringe as planned and as the reception was so great they agreed to do a tour.
Without giving too much away the show features pirates, air stewards, even an underwater world entitled The Sunken Wreck which is a take on Ant and Dec apparently!
Andy and Mike managed to persuade legendary Scottish actor and playwright Iain Lauchlan (who later went on to create the incredibly popular Tweenies) to direct the play and the result is a fun-packed, fast-paced stage show which is clearly proving very popular with audiences.
“It was originally written with four to eight-year-olds in mind, but we are finding that the actual audience is more like two to eight,” explains Andy.
It is clear from the background banter I can hear from Andy’s comedy partner Mike James that the two friends love working with each other.
“We have a close knit team: there’s me and Mike, plus Ashley our stage manager and Katy who all work together on the show. It’s a great laugh working with your mates.”
With this in mind I ask Andy what’s been his funniest moment on stage.
“There have been lots of incidents. Mike’s trousers have split he nearly knocked himself out by walking into the set, the moments when you just can’t stop giggling.
“The kids themselves come out with some great lines. We recently were putting on the show in a quite affluent town and we invited this little girl up on stage as we usually do. We suggested to her that she asked each member of the audience to give her £5 to which she duly replied,
‘But that’s wrong, I don’t need £5 from everyone as I already have lots of money,’ which really made us laugh!”
As if the stage show and the tour weren’t enough, along with his CBeebies work Andy tells me that the pair are already working on a second stage show – a similar format to Bananas but this time involving a time machine.
I couldn’t finish the interview of course without asking him about CBeebies! I somewhat gushingly tell Andy that in our household we think CBeebies is a national institution, to which he laughs but also agrees.
“When I first joined CBeebies just over three years ago I had no idea about the world I was entering. What I mean by that is I had not appreciated just how big and popular this channel is with children and parents.
“I think the success behind the channel is not just because the programmes are colourful and fun, but that they are also educational. Parents feel safe and happy letting their kids watch CBeebies as they know they are learning things as well as being entertained.”
I agree wholeheartedly and tell him that I particularly love the way the channel subtly but constantly promotes healthy eating throughout the day.
“Stuff like that helps you guys (parents) out. With programmes such as Lazytown referring to fruit as sports candy it helps get a positive message across. Shows like Something Special with Justin are also fantastic. In this programme Justin uses Makaton signs and symbols which are really easy for very young children to understand and it also introduces them to signing which is just great.”
Andy clearly loves his work and is justifiably proud of working on CBeebies.I ask him if he has a favourite character and at first he is reluctant to answer but reveals a fondness for Gigglebiz, which is created by fellow CBeebies presenter Justin Fletcher, and also Lazytown.
When I ask him if he gets bothered by attention from kids and parents he tells me that it doesn’t really happen that much and adds that it’s actually nice when children come up to him as he doesn’t really get to spend time with them when he’s in the studio.
“I think a child’s view of someone famous is very different to an adult’s. They don’t see you as famous, they just see you as Andy, one of their mates off the telly.”
He adds that he never tires of meeting the kids and if he ever does that’s when he should call it a day.
Moving on I cheekily ask him if he gets much female attention from the mums who watch the show. Giggling, he admits he does get some mischievous emails and letters from time to time, which he laughs about. I get the feeling he is not the kind of guy who would let this type of attention go to his head.
Finally I ask him if he wasn’t working in showbiz what would he be doing. Surprisingly he reveals that he is in fact a trained masseuse and used to do this as a side line when he was in between acting jobs.
“I am actually quite fascinated by the body so I think I would probably do something along these lines, more from a holistic view rather than a medical.”
So that’s that. My half an hour chat with Cbeebie’s Andy has come to an end and I leave him and Mike to continue their journey to their next destination.
I immediately pop on Facebook and tell my mum mates what a lovely guy he was. “Awww I love
him!” posts one. That just about sums it up!