A dedicated reviewer does whatever is asked of him or her to ensure that our readers are fully up to date on the shows to see, so Saturday morning, instead of have a well-deserved lie-in, my companion and I braved the Christmas shoppers to head into the West-End at 10:30 in the morning for a showing of The Gruffalo at The Vaudeville Theatre – and I have to say, it was well worth it.
I’m going to be honest and say I was approaching this theatre trip with some trepidation. I, like almost everyone in the civilised world, love the story of The Gruffalo and was really looking forward to seeing it on stage but, at the same time, I knew I was going into ‘sprog central’ and that the theatre was going to be filled with ankle biters. I wasn’t wrong about this but, once again, the magic of theatre was in evidence as the lights went down and every child turned to the stage with its wonderful woodland set – by Isla Shaw – and for the next hour entered the world of the little mouse, who took a walk through the woods one day. Along with the grown-ups, the children joined in when required and were quiet at other times as they sat transfixed by the story unfolding in front of them.
Tall Stories Theatre Company have taken the original story by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler and, whilst keeping all of the elements we have come to love – the plucky mouse, predators in the shape of the fox, owl and snake, and The Gruffalo himself – expanded it with songs and a really wonderful script that keeps both adults and children amused and laughing throughout. The amazing cast of three, taken from a pool of eight actors – work hard under Director Olivia Jacobs – and play all the characters brilliantly to deliver a wonderful show. Everyone on stage seems to be really enjoying performing and their energy and enthusiasm flow through the theatre like a river ensuring everyone is connected with the story.
I’ve seen a few children’s shows this Christmas and I have to be honest and say The Gruffalo is the best by far. Everything about the show is just right. I loved the set, the wonderful costumes – especially that of the Fox – and the acting – particularly the amazingly camp snake. My companion had never read or seen a version of The Gruffalo before – she’s a very strange lady if truth be told – so it was interesting to find out her opinion. She absolutely loves the show, as evidenced by her singing of The Gruffalo song as we left the theatre.
The show is the right length to keep the attention of everybody no matter what their age, and there is enough audience participation to ensure that everyone is fully committed to keeping the mouse very safe – even if there is some uncertainty about the morality of the mouse’s methods.
So, all in all, I would definitely recommend that everyone forget Christmas shopping and all the hassles of the festive season for an hour and spends some quality family time watching the lovely and engaging story of The Gruffalo. I guarantee that you will leave the theatre with a spring in your step and a smile on your face. Magic.
Review by Terry Eastham
404 Strand, London, WC2R 0NH
Booking Until: 3rd January 2016
Performances: Various days of the week, 11.00am, 1.00pm, 2.00pm and 4.00pm (no performances on Fridays)