Julia Donaldson is among the best-loved writers of stories for very young children. Many of her books have become firm family favourites, not least in part because of the work of her illustrators, in particular Axel Scheffler. Scheffler’s charmingly quirky humour combines seamlessly with Donaldson’s clever and genuinely funny text. Donaldson’s work has been hugely successful on stage, and a new production of The Smartest Giant in Town is due in the West End before Christmas. And in several, pitch and picture-perfect full-length cartoons of her better-known works, Magic Light Pictures has established a new Christmas tradition.
Tiddler and Other Tales brings to the stage four of Donaldson’s less well-known books. The show includes some truly magical moments, especially during Tiddler where the audience is entranced and pulled in by clever lighting and projections, which go some way to conjuring the magic of the books. However, the other stories work less well. Monkey Puzzle, about a monkey who has lost his mother, is more muddle than puzzle; while A Squash and a Squeeze and The Smartest Giant in Town feel laboured and too drawn out for an audience this young. Some things strike a jarring note too, such as the inclusion of music by Bernard ‘Psycho’ Herrmann, and the way the ‘giant’ wriggles out of her trousers is particularly odd. However, the main problem is that, while the lively cast of three generates a sense of infectious fun, Donaldson’s verse is too often unintelligible in the cavernous space of Cadogan Hall.
But is the show worth seeing? For the charming Tiddler, most definitely.
Review by Louis Mazzini
Under the sea, out on the farm and into the jungle, these terrific tales weave together a whole host of colourful characters from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s best-loved titles: Tiddler, Monkey Puzzle, The Smartest Giant in Town and A Squash and a Squeeze.
CAST & CREATIVES
Delvene Pitt, Joanna Brown and TJ Holmes
DIRECTOR Mark Kane
MUSIC AND LYRICS Benji Bower
DESIGNER Katie Sykes
LIGHTING DESIGNER El Higgins
MUSICAL DIRECTOR Brian Hargreaves
COSTUME SUPERVISOR Louise Smith
PRODUCTION MANAGER Nick May
COMPANY STAGE MANAGER Katie Bingham
CONSULTANT DIRECTOR Georgia Green
ORIGINAL DIRECTION Sally Cookson
FRI 29 JUL – SUN 21 AUG 2022