Julie Donaldson’s The Gruffalo, with spectacular illustrations by Axel Scheffler, is a book which has kept children entertained for over a decade. So successful is this five minute children’s bedtime story that it has been translated into a multitude of languages for even wider enjoyment.
Many congratulations must be awarded to the brave soul tasked with trying to recreate the magical book’s success by way of the stage, and Director Olivia Jacobs certainly did a great job at the Lyric.
The ten am showing was a little early for grown ups but the perfect casting and clear character changes made the early morning well worth it. The three-strong ensemble had lovely chemistry and were a pleasure to watch.
One feisty little mouse (Susanna Jennings) makes her way through the deep, dark wood. Encountering many shady characters along the way, all played by the spirited Timothy Richey, brave mouse scares them off with her vivid imagination and ultimately avoids being eaten. And the only thing more gorgeous than Tom Crook’s enormous, cuddly Gruffalo himself were the little children squealing at his gentle roars.
Crook’s storytelling as the narrater was all-encompassing, proved by the raucous yells of “he’s behind you…!”. The songs were also catchy and easy to sing along with – I don’t know anyone of any age who doesn’t enjoy a singalong.
Though it is a show for children (who clearly loved it), I feel that the costume and stage design departments could have done just a bit more. The stage design was a few trees – not quite a deep dark wood! On the costume front I am afraid that fingerless pink gloves with matching pink converse do not a mouse make – particularly against the beautiful onesie that brought this charming Gruffalo to life.
I am a little torn and so it pains me to admit I felt that way, but I also thought that the latin seducer as the snake was fabulous! The fox in a furry hat was also awfully clever, as was the aviator themed owl. Also possibly a bit above the children’s heads but the anthropomorphism is good fun for the grown ups.
It is a very odd experience as a non-parent to be surrounded mainly by under fives chattering and shrieking throughout, but that can only be a good thing for this show.
The Gruffalo is running until 12 January at the Lyric. For tickets and more information go to The Gruffalo Live website.