Stig of the Dump is a children’s classic which in my opinion is up there with Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, The Wind in the Willows, The Railway Children, Winnie the Pooh and Paddington Bear. Richard Williams has brilliantly adapted Clive King’s novel. His “lossless compression” of the original means we can enjoy all the action of the novel in one hour of action-packed theatrical magic. This production is superb and I can see it transferring to the West End. I can envisage the slogan on the merchandise already: I Dig Stig.
Stig (Julian Bailey Jones – superb) is a hunter-gatherer from the Stone Age who has somehow survived into the modern age. He lives in a disused chalk mine in Chalk Farm. Barney (Lewis Meagor – wonderful) echoing Alice’s adventures in Wonderland falls down into the chalk mine. He strikes up a friendship with Stig. He teaches Stig how to shake hands, how to get the smoke out of his cave by building a chimney from tin cans, how to say “jam jar” and then use them to build a window for his cave. He gives Stig a knife, marbles, medicine for his cold, and a hat and scarf. In return, Stig teaches him how to do cave drawings (like the famous ones at Lascaux in France), gives Barney a knife made from flint, a spear, and a whole leopard skin to wear. At the end of every visit, Barney must return home to his disbelieving sister Lou (Alexandra Brailsford) and Gran (Christopher Buckley), who accuse him of making it all up. Lou is superb as the sarcastic sister. And Christopher Buckley is excellent as the bossy Gran. She insists that Barney wears his coat or else it’s the dreaded cup of tea at Debenhams.
There is a fantastic spoof comic Ali G scene when Stormzy, (Lewis Chance – brilliant) Gay Z (Simi Egbejumi-David – excellent) and Beyoncé (Christopher Buckley) discover Barney in the cave and try to intimidate him only to be turned into snivelling cowards when Stig turns up and gives them what for. Then Stig is joined by three other hunter-gathers as they perform a cross between a caveman ritual and a Hakka. Its hypnotically mesmerising stuff and really brings the past to life. I for one felt that this was what it must have been like 10,000 years ago. As the tribe gathered around the fire for food and warmth, singing and dancing. Lou makes a brilliant speech to the assembled cavemen quoting snippets from some of the most famous speeches of all-time such as Mark Antony’s “Friends Romans Countrymen” alongside nursery rhymes like Christmas Is Coming and The Goose is Getting Fat.
With its mixture of fun, adventure, history, slapstick comedy and wordplay Stig of The Dump convinces and delights on so many levels. As we turn more and more of our planet into one big dump the theme is remarkably prescient and urgent. This production will have succeeded if it prods the adults and children in the audience to think about how we got from the paintings at Lascaux to the world’s oceans awash with plastic.
Review by John O’Brien
When Barney, a day-dreaming, eight-year-old falls over the edge into a chalk pit he discovers Stig, a modern day caveman living in a rubbish dump. Thrills, excitement and fun abound as they embark on an original fantasy journey. Making use of everything to improve Stigs home, this intriguing and touching tale is a wonderful proclamation about friendship, imagination and possibly even recycling.
Cast: Julian Bailey Jones, Lewis Meagor, Alexandra Brailsford, Christopher Buckley, Lewis Chance, Simi Egbejumi-David.
Stig of the Dump
by Clive King
Adapted for the Stage by Richard Williams
2 Bath Road
London W4 1LW
6 December 2018 – 6 January 2019