With murmurs of excited children whispering about biscuits, mice and the Grufflo, the Lyric theatre was filled with an air of excitement and anticipation of what was in store. The stage was filled with a wooden land full of and curiosity and the audience were already transfixed before the story had begun.

We were greeted by three friendly faces on stage who brought an ecstatic energy and warmth from their first appearance. The audience are introduced to the wood and informed of all the different animals that live there. Before our eyes, we see a character change from a girl into a mouse – through the attachment of a tale, the creation of paws, popping ears and a little button nose. The transition was thoughtfully explained so they children could have a good grasp as to what had happened. Mouse then began her journey through the wood to find a nut, satisfy her hunger and have some new adventures. Mouse is met by several obstacles with various different animals attempting to eat her and to avoid consumption she invents a ficticous Gruffalo to protect her. Who inevitably turns out to exist.

The stage was minimalistic and highly adaptable from scene to scene as Mouse went on her journey. The set designed by Isla Shaw featured large wooden cartoon-like trees were colourful and engaging for both adults and children. The actors were able to duck in and out of the woods as the story evolved and new characters emerged from the wings. With each new character, the audience were able to see the costumes adapt and change – which called for gasps and whispers throughout the theatre. One narrator transformed into a fox before our eyes with a burst of white chest hair pulled across his chest, an extracted busy red tail and tow red ears popped up from his hat. Each costume change was smooth quick and impressive. Yvonne Stone must be commended in her excellent costume designs which were highly effective in portraying each animal in a fun way.

The actors kept the children engaged with their fast paced story telling, powerful singing and witty antics. There was a high level of audience participation to scare away predators, shout out pantomime like responses, singing along and interactions with the characters throughout the show. This level of involvement meant that the children were kept interested and part of the story through mouse’s journey.

The Gruffalo was an impressive feat of adaptable acting, catchy songs and clever costuming. The children and adults alike were highly entrahlled in the performance and I would highly recommend popping along for a family day out.

Photo: Tall Stories

The Gruffalo is running at the Lyric theatre until 8 January, you can find out more here.