children's books present a design problem when translated to the
stage, television cartoons and animations offer an even bigger one.
You could tell that designers Russell Dean and Simon Scullion had
worked out just how to do it from the total commitment of the very
young audience to Richard Lewis' adaptation of Ben and
Holly's Little Kingdom.
Dean's masks are a
triumph – they look good and the actors are at ease wearing them;
the costumes also have just the right bright blend of stylisation and
practicality. Scullion's perambulating sets are properly cartoonish,
and there's a good use of oriental theatre techniques, which the
children took at face value, whether the hard-working black-masked stage managers
wielding rod puppets, or undulating swatches of silk for Lucy's
bedclothes and the jelly tide.
Danielle Black is the
girl inadvertently woken by Nicky Cross' Nanny Plum in her tooth
fairy guise. We meet her first as a larger than life size face, then
she shrinks to join Kerry Gooderson's Holly and Nicola Hart's Ben
in their fairy kingdom. Mayhem ensues with Nanny Plum always getting
her spells wrong and Ben blowing his horn at inopportune moments.
But, with the aid of a hefty dose of audience participation, a
ladybird called Gaston who barks, a slug, a spider and a burping frog
(very popular), King Thistle (David Sandham) has a birthday to
Subtly included are
some messages about saying "please" and "thank you",
respecting other people or species and being prepared to own up when
you've made a mistake. There's a catchy score by Mani Svavarsson as
well as a couple of familiar sing-along tunes. Overall, it's good
value for money as far as parents and other senior ticket-buyers are
concerned – and a very good introduction to the magic of theatre for