Writer: David Wood
Director: Michael Fentiman
Reviewer: Charlie Hackett
Dick King-Smith’s classic tale of “the little pig with big dreams” springs to life in this colourful and
hugely charming stage adaptation.
When he arrives at Hogget’s farm, Babe the pig is motherless and unsure of his new surroundings. However, he is soon adopted by Fly, the motherly sheepdog, who needs help with the farm’s somewhat sensitive sheep.
Nicola Blackman (Fly) is particularly engaging and has a real sense of presence, and Emma Barclay is wonderfully entertaining as the larger-than-life Mrs Hogget. The actors playing the sheep flock work very well together, providing many laughs and creating the illusion that there are far more of them than there actually are.
As well as live actors, the show uses some wonderfully detailed puppets such as Babe, who is voiced gently by Thomas Gilbey. Babe himself appears to be a hit from the off, as he is greeted by an audible, and frankly understandable, “aww” from the young audience.
The use of puppetry in the show is undeniably clever and appears effortless. The fluid movements of the spiteful cat and the scene in which Babe is faced by a futuristic looking wolf, provide a real treat for the eyes. The moment where Fly says goodbye to her puppies is made all the more poignant because these particular puppets look so amazingly life-like.
The scarce darker moments in the show, such as the wolf’s attack, are carefully realised to add hints of drama without overshadowing the optimistic tone and without being too frightening for the younger members of the audience.
Mostly, the show feels refreshingly upbeat and cheerful. Folksy music plays and the sheep playfully tumble around, often dancing and breaking into song. Perhaps one of the few criticisms of the show is that sometimes the singing simply isn’t clear enough. Some of the lyrics are lost completely and would benefit from the volume being turned up a notch.
The show’s simple story flows seamlessly and the time seems to fly by. The audience spend it clapping and cheering along, leaving the theatre smiling broadly and feeling just that little bit lighter.
Runs until 23 April 2017 | Image: Darren Bell