The children’s picture book The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler has been adapted for the stage by Tall Stories, the brilliant children’s theatre company founded twenty years ago by Olivia Jacobs and Toby Mitchell.
This highly polished musical adaptation is running in the West End over the Christmas period and is guaranteed to be a massive hit.
Skilfully directed by Olivia Jacobs, the show follows the Gruffalo’s Child (played by Sophie Alice) who ignores her father’s warnings and goes in search of the big, bad mouse who lives in the deep dark wood. Along the way she encounters various creatures all played with great style and wit by Andrew Mudie.
The show features original songs by Jon Fiber and Andy Shaw with additional lyrics by Olivia Jacobs and Robin Prince. The stand-out song is ‘I Could Sell the Sunshine’ a Madness style anthem sung primarily by the wiley Fox (played by Mudie with the air of a dodgy, East End second-hand car dealer.) The music is catchy and the cast all sing very well.
Andrew Mudie plays the Gruffalo as well as the Fox, the Snake and the Owl. So incredibly versatile an actor is Mudie that at the end I was surprised when only three actors came back on stage to take the applause. Sophie Alice plays The Gruffalo’s Child with a nuanced mixture of fear and fierceness. Catriona Mackenzie is the Mouse and narrator and has a balletic grace to her movement around the stage. The choreography by Morag Cross and Luanna Priestman is superb.
The show is charmingly designed by Isla Shaw. The show features a simple yet effective forest set which the actors move around the stage during the show as the Gruffalo’s Child goes further into the woods. The costumes by Lisa Aitken and Leanne James are outstanding. They are intricate, well designed and show great attention to detail. The design of the mouse and the snake’s costumes in particular are witty, fun and ingenious. The Gruffalo and Gruffalo’s Child costumes are beautiful and luxurious and it is great to see a piece of children’s theatre where a large chunk of the budget has evidently been assigned to the costumes.
The show features some audience participation and the children in the audience loved the opportunity to clap hands or make alligator style movements with their arms. Too often in these sorts of shows, these participation bits can seem weak or out of control but Jacobs keeps the direction on these sections very tight and the result is very successful.
The Gruffalo’s Child is a lovely show – warm, witty and beautifully made. I think it will be a fantastic family favourite this Christmas.
Review by Laura-Jane Foley
One wild and windy night the Gruffalo’s Child ignores her father’s warning and tiptoes out into the snow. After all, the Big Bad Mouse doesn’t really exist… does he?
Tall Stories’ magical, musical adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s award-winning sequel to The Gruffalo (published by Macmillan Children’s Books) is ‘everything good children’s theatre should be’ (The list). Songs, laughs and lots of fun for children aged 3 and up and their families.
The Gruffalo’s Child is produced by award-winning theatre company Tall Stories – a creative force whose productions include The Gruffalo, the Olivier Award Nominated Room on the Broom, The Snail and the Whale and The Snow Dragon. The creative team includes Director Olivia Jacobs, Creative Producer Toby Mitchell, Designer Isla Shaw, Composers Jon Fiber & Andy Shaw of JollyGoodTunes and Lighting Designer James Whiteside.
Running time: 55 Minutes (no interval)
Recommended for ages 3 years and up
Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue
Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 7ES
Book to Sunday 7th January 2018