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The Gruffalo's Child (tour - Chelmsford, Civic Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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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 right.

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.


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