Writer: Julia Donaldson
Director: Mark Cane
Freckle Productions’ Stick Man, directed by Mark Cane, brings a much-loved children’s book to life on Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Lyric stage. Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s Stick Man is a rite of passage for most parents and pre-schoolers and fast becomes a family reading staple in any young (or older) household. The plot follows Stick Man, who through a series of unfortunate events is separated from his family and finds himself far from home. With a bit of Christmas magic, he makes his way back.
The cast of three talented actor/musicians bring youthful energy and pep to the production. The standout performance comes from Clair Gleave, whose versatility and presence is engaging and highly entertaining. The little ones in the audience fall about with laughter at her rendition of the dog.
Tyler Ephraim performs the title role with confidence and charm and Lawrence Cole’s musical talents are enjoyable to all. Cole provides percussive accompaniment to the action, which he does with flair and skill. All actors show ability at puppetry and make their quick role and costume changes look slick and effortless. The audience participation sections go down extremely well with the younger members of the audience.
Musical Director, Brian Hargreaves, and Composer, Benji Bower, implement and create an atmospheric yet accessible musical delight, with catchy tunes that stay in the audience’s heads as they skip out of the auditorium. The lighting and effects by Elanor Higgins are relatively minimalist, save for a finale when the man in the big red suit makes an appearance.
This production does feel slightly lost on the expanse that is the Lyric stage. The performers, whose attempt to fill the space with energy is admirable, are at times swamped by the large venue. This production would be better suited to a smaller stage, such as the Lyric’s neighbour, the Drum. The modest design by Katie Sykes would also have a greater impact in a reduced space. The 55-minute run time takes some of the pace out of the original book and much of the lyrical genius from Julia Donaldson is lost in the adaptation. Of course, the story is overall true to the original book, however, by necessity, there is a fair amount of additional material that purists may not be expecting.
The overall quality of Freckle Productions’ Stick Man, from both the cast and creatives is good and the show is sure to please those familiar with the original book.
Runs until 6 November 2021