Writer: Julia Donaldson
Director: Graham Hubbard
Reviewer: Clare Boswell
What the Ladybird Heard currently playing at the Liverpool Playhouse is based upon Julia Donaldson’s and Lydia Monk’s popular award-winning book of the same name. Having read an abundance of children’s story books with my daughter over the past two years, What the Ladybird Heard is definitely one of the better ones and includes everything that a classic kid’s story should have; a great plot (two robbers known as Hefty Hugh and Lanky Len have a cunning plan to steal the farmer’s fine prize cow) complete with a nice twist, loveable villains and of course the unexpected hero of the story, which in this case is the tiny, shy Ladybird who has a plan of her own to foil Hugh and Len’s crafty scheme.
Kenny Wax Productions have done a remarkable job of bringing this much loved book to the stage and have extended the plotline without losing any of the original story’s gentle charm. Director Graham Hubbard has clearly worked closely and inventively with his team to create a magical farmyard location for the action. The use of puppetry is also given an original flourish as the characters decide to use bits of old junk they find in the farmyard to create the missing animals. Old bicycles, barrels, gloves and buckets are used ingeniously to bring to life the dainty dog, handsome horse, woolly sheep, hairy hog and the fat red hen and is a lovely way to refresh the tried and tested use of puppetry in children’s theatre. It is moments of creativity like this that lifts ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ from a run of the mill kid’s show into a piece of exciting and original theatre, which can certainly be enjoyed and appreciated by both adults and children alike.
The success of this production also has to be attributed to the excellent performances given by the four strong cast of actor-musicians, who act, sing, dance and talk to the young audience with such ease that it is impossible not to be drawn into their world. The original sound score is catchy, age appropriate and delivered extremely well while the humour of the piece appeals to both ends of the age range. The rapport between the actors and their manipulation of the puppets alongside seamlessly integrating live musical accompaniment is especially impressive.
What the Ladybird Heard is an infectious, energetic and innovative production and one which will appeal to all the family.
Runs until 22nd February