Many family shows I have attended have had extremely long running times meaning that kids in the audience fidget and become bored and their parents frustrated. This is not the case with Olivia Jacobs and Toby Mitchell's wonderfully short, snappy and eventful The Gruffalo's Child.
As a sequel the audience is familiar with the characters so there is no slow build up – we cut straight to the chase. The Gruffalo's child (Yvette Clutterbuck) has been warned by her father never to venture into the woods as she may run into the Big Bad Mouse. But ever adventurous and unable to sleep she ups sticks and goes on a journey in search of the squeaky one.
The little ones in the audience on the afternoon I attended found the Gruffalo himself (Felix Hayes) very scary. Many of them cried every time he boomed an order at his child. But they soon realised, beneath his gruff exterior, he is cute as a kitten, like the show itself.
Jon Fiber, Andy Shaw and Jacobs' lovely songs keep the young audience entertained as they are so incredibly catchy that you cannot help but sing along. The gentle humour featuring jokes about rodent meals like mouse-saka, bubble and squeak, and tira-mouse-su mean that even adults end up smiling. "You've got a lovely voice" says the child to her dad. "You should be on the stage." Such knowing wit is welcomed in a show where the parents are not ignored.
The set, consisting of trees, rocks and a cave, is very simplistic but with an all-involving narrative. Smoke and mirrors are not required to cover any plot cracks, as there are none. Reminiscent of kids' classic The Jungle Book, this show takes your child on a journey meeting a variety of creatures. Hayes plays the majority of them and really ups the ante. We meet a crafty fox, a wise old owl, a camp snake and of course, the big bad mouse.
Clutterbuck also amuses as the brave but ultimately vulnerable little Gruff, who adores her father. Narrator Abbey Norman keeps you up to date with current events, playing a few characters also and singing with real gusto and enthusiasm.
All in all this is a fun-packed furry treat for toddlers and their families.
Reviewed at The Lowry, Salford.
- Glenn Meads