Home » London Theatre Reviews » The Gruffalo’s Child at Alexandra Palace Theatre | Review

The Gruffalo’s Child at Alexandra Palace Theatre | Review

I am finding the pressures to make this Christmas the most-Christmassy-ever daunting to the point of unbearable (seeing as we shall soon receive special temporary release from public health regulations as if tinsel were a viral prophylaxis). However, despite my exhaustion and seasonal cynicism, I couldn’t help but be charmed by the whole experience of a trip to Ally Pally to see a revival of The Gruffalo’s Child in the North London venue’s capacious theatre. If you have children between the ages of 3 and 6, go see this show and suspend your latent grinch for a few hours!

Tall Stories The Gruffalo's Child: From left Dominic Gee-Burch The Gruffalo - Predator Althea Burey - The Gruffalos Child.
Tall Stories The Gruffalo’s Child: From left Dominic Gee-Burch The Gruffalo – Predator Althea Burey – The Gruffalos Child.
Yes, even on a Sunday, you’ll be required to pay £3 for parking at the hilltop setting; but somehow it feels like a contribution to the greater good as you pass the exit to the drive-in Covid testing centre situated down the hill on the same majestic grounds. Convenient and scenic, this is the beginning of being rumbled for change (metaphorically, as it’s all contactless these days) for snacks and merchandise (unless you’re far more disciplined than I am) but, oddly, this pre-admission ritual has a certain festivity to it because, during the cheerful transaction, you behold the Victorian exhibition palace bedecked in haute-Noel – which I could see reflected in my children’s eyes as a sense of joy and wonder which aided my wilful suspension of Crumpiness (Crimbo + Grumpiness).

The production – which had a stint in the West End and toured children’s performance centres across the country a few years ago – makes its return after 9 months in mothballs. The multi-rolling cast of three show themselves as troupers extraordinaire with so much heart and commitment it might just make you teary and will definitely make you toe-tap. As the venue is huge and seats must be spaced apart for social-distancing, the staging could perhaps do with scaling up visually to ramp up the ambience that was previously provided by intimacy. I would have liked to see the Owl’s wings a bit bigger and Mr Snake in a full-body snakeskin suit (perhaps with a bit of iridescence thrown in to hit the circle seats) but my kids flapped and hissed along regardless. Indeed, as I gazed around, I could see the faces of rapt children none-the-wiser of the show’s previous proportions. In fact, having no one in front or behind you is rather perfect for a kids’ show because you don’t need to worry about sightlines or seat-kicking.

With admirable lighting, fun fast costume changes and a recurring ditty about Stickman that will give you an earworm all the way home, this show is a pleasing and faithful adaptation of the beloved Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler classic. Thanks to its comic theatrical interpretations and song-and-dance numbers, I find this Gruffalo’s Child more fun than the very literal animated TV rendition voiced by David Tennant. I also suspect that younger children will find it less scary and more entertaining too.

When I asked my 8-year-old co-critics what they thought, they told me the music was the best part but they are probably a bit too old for this production now. My son declared, ‘my 5-year-old self would have given it 5 stars but now I prefer The Mandalorian.’ My daughter still gave it 3 stars from her Year-4-self but was eager to recommend it to the younger siblings of her classmates whom she was confident would rate it more highly. This show isn’t Matilda but, as it will likely be a long time before you’ll have that scale of theatrical experience, a day-out at Ally Pally with The Gruffalo’s Child as its centrepiece is pretty good-going if you have infants-age children.

Whilst socially-distanced celebrations may at first feel odd, the venue and producers run things smoothly and conscientiously – without killing the vibe. In fact, it’s rather pleasant not to be overrun by crowds when accompanied by highly Yuletide-stimulated children!

4 stars

Review by Mary Beer

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? Join the Gruffalo’s Child on her adventurous mission in this magical musical stage adaptation, of the much-loved picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. The Gruffalo’s Child runs from 5 December 2020 – 3 January 2021.

Suitable for children 3+. Running time 55 mins (no interval).
https://www.alexandrapalace.com/
https://www.tallstories.org.uk/the-gruffalos-child

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Author

  • Mary Beer

    Mary graduated with a cum laude degree in Theatre from Columbia University’s Barnard College in New York City. In addition to directing and stage managing several productions off-Broadway, Mary was awarded the Helen Prince Memorial Prize in Dramatic Composition for her play Subway Fare whilst in New York. Relocating to London, Mary has worked in the creative sector, mostly in television broadcast and production, since 1998. Her creative and strategic abilities in TV promotion, marketing and design have been recognised with over 20 industry awards including several Global Promax Golds. She is a founder member of multiple creative industry and arts organisations and has frequently served as an advisor to the Edinburgh International TV Festival.

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