Original Book: Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Original Director: Sally Cookson
Director: Mark Kane
Music: Benji Bower
Freckle Productions brings to life the classic children’s story Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler in a colourful and joyous way at the Leeds Playhouse this festive season. To the delight of the young audience they sing, dance, and play through the beautiful narrative, which sees our hero Stick Man, played by Luke Byeford, who is going out for a run but ends up being chased by a dog, thrown into a river by a girl playing poo sticks and washed out to sea. Then of course he is returned to the family tree with his Stick Lady Love, played by multi-roling performer Georgia Jackson, and his Stick children three by Father Christmas who makes a very welcome entrance to the stage at the end of the story.
It was lovely to the story being BSL translated making it accessible to as many young audiences as possible, there will also be a relaxed performance on Friday 16th December at 10.30am.
Byeford as the Stick Man moves slickly between puppeteering the Stick Man and being the Stick Man. There is a gentle elegance to his characterisation which even in the most panicked situations that the Stick Man finds himself in, keeps the young audience calm and able to enjoy the action.
Jackson takes on the majority of other characters in the piece and can be seen changing costume pieces at the speed of light to appear in time for the next action. Patrick Orkney appears as third performer in the piece as an actor musician. He is clearly a very talented musician, playing drums, saxophone, and ukulele to name a few, while also providing some background characters. However, the music provided from the stage adds very little to the performance and perhaps he could have been better used to take over some of the characters from Jackson for more variety and range.
The game of Invisi-ball, which includes the entire audience in a game of catch is a lovely simple participatory moment that gives the audience a welcome break from sitting still. It’s well timed and this company clearly knows what a young audience needs to stay engaged.
It’s great to see theatre for young audiences that doesn’t shy away from emotional journeys. This piece certainly embodies all the heart and imagination that the book offers, taking us on an adventure that is every bit as sad and lonely at times, as it is exciting and colourful at other times.
The middle of the performance does become a bit laboured, with a long solo performance by the Stick Man that loses some of the audience. But the three skilled performers work hard to bring us all back again, and the rest of the music is perfectly pitched to keep toes tapping, and eyes and ears on the stage.
This is a lovely festive experience for very young audiences, full of love, heart, and song. It is certainly worth venturing out into the cold for, it will warm your hearts in no time.
Runs until 31st December 2022.