Stig of the Dump at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds
The West Yorkshire Playhouse is not known for trash but Richard Williams' wonderful adaptation of Clive King's 1963 novel for children, directed by Natasha Betteridge, will change all that. Never has one person's rubbish been another's treasure with such style.
For those that do not know the story schoolboy Barney (Daniel Crowder) is prone to dreaming and plays on a rubbish dump at the back of his Gran's (Alwyne Taylor) house. Here he discovers Stig (Andy Robb) the caveman. The pair become play mates and enjoy some action packed adventures together.
Designer Bernadette Roberts provides a terrific playground of junk for the action to take place on - from rusty electrical products to tyre swings. Ingeniously the collection of wardrobes that are piled at the rear of the performance space also double up as Gran's house and various hill tops and the cast, especially Crowder, show their agility moving around this designer climbing frame. Kevin Sleep's lighting aids the audience's imagination by moving from night to day, hot to cold and interior to exterior with great polish.
Robb is more than excellent. Playing a character whose only recognisable verbal mutterings are restricted to 'jam jar' can't be easy. Robb has apparently built up a dictionary of Stig's communicative grunts, which is probably why the closing scene, where the rest of his tribe (Alwyne Taylor, Frank Bourke, Marcia Hewitt and Nick Malinowski) appear, holds together so well.
The rubbish dump theme also runs through Corin Buckeridge's musical compositions, a beautiful mix of off the wall sounds that are just as imaginative as the story. Buckeridge uses household objects amid more conventional instruments to sculpt a contemporary soundscape of an indigenous nature.
There are some very funny set pieces between Stig and Barney as the pair try and understand each other - a well worked out routine where the pair mirror each others movements, Stig's first encounter with a Sherbet Fountain and the crowd become involved when a chase sequence leaves the confines of the stage for the wider auditorium. The entire show has a magical quality which pulls the audience in to the action.
Stig of the Dump is a work that doesn't insult the imaginative intelligence of younger audiences but will equally enthral older theatre goers. Rubbish? Far from it.
Until 2 February