All the world’s a stag - what appears to be a dusty attic can be anything you like, given a vivid imagination, and a wondrous play brings out the best in the audience. Two and a half hours is a long time to keep children entertained, but all you need is a fantastic cast, a marvelous, industrious team of helpers, clever costume, ingenious effects to conjure up boats, lakes and islands, birds and beasts, and music with Neil Hannon’s divinely witty lyrics.
Children’s classics stand the test of time and appeal to all ages (obvious which books Enid Blyton must have read): the intrepid Walker children, allowed to go off all by themselves on a boat trip, capture an island, encounter pirates, including Captain Flint, and discover buried treasure.
So you have brave, honorable John (Richard Holt), ably assisted by motherly yet spirited Susan, Akiya Henry’s adventurous, tomboyish Titty, and excitable overgrown schoolboy, literally, Roger (Stewart Wright), the youngest and funniest with his constant frustration. Which makes it Swallows: 4; Amazons: 2, the former rather virtuous though clever enough to avoid being boring - but once the latter appear, Nancy (Celia Adams) and Peggy (Sophie Waller) sweep the board with their bravado and bickering; Arthur Ransome (and Neil Hannon) obviously have a soft spot for tomboys. Similarly, Mrs Walker (Hilary Tones) and the Blackett girls’ uncle (Greg Barnett), gamely enter into the spirit of things –as does the audience, with considerable relish.
Old fashioned, naturally, but great fun all round, what an enchanting show, memorably capturing those golden years of childhood. Better bring your family before health and safety clap their hands on it – this production might give people ideas.