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5-star The Gruffalo at the Lyric Theatre London

Steve McCourt (The Gruffalo) Ellie Bell (Mouse) & Charlie Guest (Predators)
Steve McCourt (The Gruffalo) Ellie Bell (Mouse) & Charlie Guest (Predators)

There are somethings that we know to be true and one of them is that “There is no such thing as the Gruffalo!” or is there? Well kids, this is the time to be nice to your parents and drop subtle hints that they should be taking you to the Lyric Theatre where the deep dark wood has set up for the summer.

If you don’t know the story then firstly where have you been since 1999 and secondly here’s a quick synopsis. One day a mouse (Ellie Bell) goes for a walk through the woods looking for a hazelnut to eat. Mouse wanders, meeting all sorts of creatures (Charlie Guest) that, not to put too fine a point on it, want to eat Mouse! But Mouse is wily and manages to convince each predator that it is under the protection of its friend The Gruffalo (Steve McCourt).

There is a lot more to the story than this but it is enough of a taster to get the old folks to the theatre. Based on the original book of the same name by writer and playwright Julia Donaldson, The Grufalo is a charming little one act musical play aimed at young rugrats but translated well enough to keep the adults entertained as well. I went to see it with a friend and her two year old and by then end I think I safely say all three of us had had a thoroughly great time.

Most of that may be down to the story itself which – whilst it encourages children to lie and boast in order to succeed – is really gentle and great fun. However, we have to give full credit to the actors who throw themselves wholeheartedly into the production. All three of them are great and highly believable in their various roles. Actually, as I’ve said before, that is the great thing about theatre for children. There is a lovely innocence in the way children view the stage. To the youngsters there is a mouse, owl, fox, snake and Gruffalo in the deep dark wood, not a group of grown ups running around in funny clothes. You can always tell when a production has grabbed the children’s attention, it shows on their face which is transfixed on the stage even if they are moving around and The Gruffalo really works on that level. The set is lively and colourful, trees move, leaves turn into butterflies and everything is how it should be and the costumes are just brilliantly designed. I loved the way that a normal jacket and hat were suddenly transformed into a fox’s coat and ears. As for the Gruffalo, well he looked perfect with “terrible claws and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws. He has knobbly knees, and turned-out toes, and a poisonous wart at the end of his nose. His eyes are orange, his tongue is black; he has purple prickles all over his back”. Everything the sprogs, and the adults in the know were looking for.

At a running time of around an hour, The Gruffalo is pretty much the right length to keep the attention of both children and adults and while it stays remarkably close to the book, Tall Stories Theatre Company have added some splendid musical elements which really give the overall story a wonderful sense of joie de vivre that spreads from the stage throughout the auditorium so that by the end, even Victor Meldrew would be singing and clapping along.

So, to sum up, my companions and I loved The Gruffalo and my own opinion, for what its worth is that it really is time that the various theatrical award panels stopped ignoring children’s theatre and had categories where lovely shows like The Gruffalo could receive the recognition they deserved.

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

Tall Stories’ magical, musical stage adaptation of The Gruffalo roars back in to the Lyric Theatre for a monster summer season!

Mouse sets off on a daring adventure through the deep dark wood in the search for hazelnuts, meeting the cunning Fox, the eccentric old Owl and the party mad Snake on the way. Will the story of the fabled Gruffalo save Mouse from ending up as dinner for these wily woodland creatures? with only a nut map and a little courage, Mouse must outwit them all, and after all, there’s no such thing as a Gruffalo – is there?

Music, laughter, physical theatre and just the right touch of scary fun, makes Tall Stories’ The Gruffalo the must see family show for lovers of the timeless story and everyone looking for a smashing day out! Based on the award winning picture book by JULIA DONALDSON and AXEL SCHEFFLER this production continues to entertain audiences worldwide, bringing everyone’s favourite furry monster to life on stage.

Interview with Olivia Jacobs – Director of The Gruffalo

The Gruffalo
Lyric Theatre
29 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7ES
Running Time: 55 minutes
Age Restrictions: Age Recomendation 3+ (Guide only)
Booking From: 6th Jul 2016
Booking Until: 8th Jan 2017

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