It’s a good show business maxim. If the first one’s a success, get busy on a sequel. That’s precisely what Tall Stories have done – the first stage adaptation of The Guffalo, the picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler has been followed by one of The Gruffalo’s Child.
As with so many sequels, though the production values are high, it doesn’t quite measure up to its predecessor Designer Isla Shaw has turned two dimensions into three very successfully with the gruffalo himself sufficiently scary (though always the caring parent), the mischievous little mouse (who is narrator as well as participant), and the greedy forest predators weaving their magic way through a flexible forest. Writer Toby Mitchell and director Olivia Jacobs ensure that there’s enough going on to keep a young audience’s attention focused.
The audience participation moments are also cleverly slotted into the story. Alice Parsloe’s mouse is a thoroughly enjoyable rodent and Owen G Bevan characterises the lurex tail-coated snake, the aviator owl and the wide-boy fox with immense skill and energy. Harry Lobek played the adventurous gruffalo son at the performance which I saw. He acted it very well but, in a show with some toe-tapping tunes and quite elaborate harmonies, it just is a pity that he can’t hold a tune better.