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The Scarecrows’ Wedding at Leicester Square Theatre

The Scarecrow's WeddingThe book of The Scarecrows’ Wedding by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler is not entirely without controversy, with some parents expressing concern and discomfort about the inclusion of an anti-smoking message in a book with a target audience of very young children. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with discouraging children (or indeed adults) from smoking, but the usual readership of illustrated children’s books is not likely to have to wrestle with issues of that nature for some years to come.

Thankfully, I don’t consciously recall such a message, or anything alluding to it, in this theatrical adaptation of that book. The plans set out by Harry O’Hay (Matthew Hamper) and Betty O’Barley (Lucy Wells) to get married are to be enjoyed by children and parents alike. The use of scarecrows (or rather, actors dressed as scarecrows) as the betrothed characters allows the show to be immensely creative in setting out preparations for the big day. The resourcefulness of the scarecrows to make do with what resources are available is relatable to the parents, some of whom themselves will have spent time planning for their own weddings.

There is some great audience participation as the fourth wall is breached and the crowd is addressed as a herd of cows. Later, the show almost over-succeeds as children in the audience continue to cry out ‘ribbit’ mimicking the dialogue (for want of a better word) of a giant frog on the scarecrows’ farm. Later still, the action stops for a few seconds for the couple to catch their breath and grab a bite to eat. It is a very short pause, but sufficient enough for the children in the audience to want to eat as well, and a plethora of bags were unzipped and food items taken out as parents were virtually forced to oblige their pleading offspring. I suspect the parents and children who have read the storybook over and over again may have seen it coming.

The music is rather mellow, and despite the house lights coming up and invitations to join in, the show is far removed from the world of panto. The costumes are very good, though scare-y (as it were) enough to elicit some loud crying from the audience at first glance. The props are used inventively: socks are used as geese belonging to The Farmer (an engaging and likeable Michael Palmer), and the on-stage cows are merely bells on a rope.

This is a perfectly serviceable children’s musical, and though the narrative is quite meandering, there’s some marvellous actor-musician action to enjoy. It’s probably the least fraught wedding planning I’ve ever come across, either in a theatre or in real life. Many of the rhymes from the book, I am reliably informed from a younger member of the audience, have been retained, and the feel-good finish is as thrilling as any of the big and joyous West End musicals.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Betty O’Barley and Harry O’Hay invite you to . . .
The best wedding ever, the best wedding yet,
The wedding that no one will ever forget.

Betty O’Barley and Harry O’Hay are excellent scarecrows (they scare a lot of crows). Harry loves Betty, and Betty loves Harry – so they decide to get married and Harry sets off to search for their wedding day essentials including a dress of feathers, a bunch of flowers and a necklace made from shells.

However, when the farmer notices he is missing a scarecrow, he replaces Harry with the devilishly smooth but dangerous Reginald Rake. Dashing, daring and ever so cool, can Reginald persuade Betty that he is the scarecrow for her? Will Harry make it back in the nick of time before Reginald ruins their special day?

This truly heart-warming adaptation of Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler’s new bestselling book is bursting at the seams with Scamp Theatre’s inimitable style (Stick Man, Tiddler & Other Terrific Tales, Pirate Gran) and promises wit, drama, and wedding bells!

Scamp Theatre and Watford Palace Theatre present
THE SCARECROWS’ WEDDING
Based on the book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, creators of The Gruffalo
Running Time approx. 60mins
Family Ticket Available 2 adult/2 children or 1 adult/3 children
Suitable for 3 +
12th July to 4th September 2016
http://www.leicestersquaretheatre.com/

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