FamilyMusicalNorth WestReview

Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book – The Liverpool Playhouse,

Reviewer: Natasia Bullock

Music/Lyrics: Barb Jungr

Adaptor: Barb Jungr and Samantha Lane

Director: Samantha Lane

Once upon a time, there was a boy called Charlie Cook. Who curled up in a cosy chair and read his favourite book… It’s a very inviting opening… and as the audience enters the theatre to watch Jungr and Lane’s adaptation of Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book, we too are invited into Charlie’s cosy chair and indeed front room, as the stage is set up to mimic the opening page of the perhaps lesser know of the Donaldson and Scheffler creations. Aesthetically we are in the book, with yellow walls, parrot, armchair and Charlie in his red striped t-shirt.

It does however feel like this opening is the only scene to visually mimic the pages in the book, as the cast of three use objects around the house to re-create the stories, which don’t always transport the audience to the many worlds Charlie does in the book. On one level as a parent of young children, you can smile at many of the conversations throughout the play, as mum is trying to balance keeping house and being mum, and can see the day playing out as she tries to use her household objects to recreate games and scenes to entertain the children. But it was also becoming very repetitive as this device is used in between every book Charlie reads, and it felt like it brought the energy and excitement of the stories down.

The introduction of the new character (Not in the books), Izzy, played very well by Freya Stephenson, was a good device to try and take the audience on a journey and promote the love of reading, but again the character’s constant resistance to Charlie’s imaginative play and mums comments on Charlie not leaving his chair enough seems to bring down the energy of the production.

A real highlight of this production was the use of the books and cleverly disguised puppets by Maia Kirkman-Richards, within them. This kept the little ones delighted and engaged as they became frogs, birds, crocodiles and many more! With my little ones particularly enjoying the frog with extendable limps and his rendition of the Reddit song!

Although this production was aimed at a slightly older audience (3-8 years) than perhaps other Donaldson adaptations, it still felt a little lacking in audience participation where others have flourished.

Overall it was an enjoyable experience, but couldn’t help coming away feeling that some key moments and magic of the book had been lost.

Runs until 24th October 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Some magic lost

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The North West team is under the editorship of John McRoberts. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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