You know the smallest members of the
audience are committed fans when every other child seems to have a
hood or rucksack representing that comfortably scary monster the
Gruffalo. That may be fine for the theatre manager hoping to fill his
or her auditorium, but – will the stage show measure up to
expectations? It's important, for this may be the first time
individual children will have been taken to a live show.
The Gruffalo has
been extremely successful in Tall Stories' staging. Now he's joined
by The Gruffalo's Child who is, of course, just as
wilful and determined to ignore adult good advice and warnings as
every small person secretly intends to be. Ellie Bell is credible as the furry
offspring who has to learn that older people do sometimes get it
Then there's Lesley Cook's Big Bad
Mouse, perhaps not so big as she warms up the audience all twitchy paws and
swirling tail but still a mover and shaker. it's Mouse who acts as
narrator and leads us from one scene to another. Olivia Jacobs'
direction is assisted by Isla Shaw's ingenuous and flexible sets
which are moved by the actors to indicate changes of location.
At the performance I saw, Duncan
MacInnes was both the paternal Graffalo and the three extremely
devious characters – slinky Snake, aviator Owl and con-man Fox –
familiar from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's first book of
the series. The Gruffalo's Child has to learn the hard way that Daddy
does know best. The music and lyrics by Jon Fiber and Andy Shaw
are catchy with some quirky modulations and rhyme endings to catch
the imagination of all ages.