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Stig of the Dump – Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre, Chester

Writer: Clive King
Adaptor: Jessica Swale
Director: Derek Bond
Reviewers: Emma Boswell and Penny Dutton (age 9)

The team behind last year’s highly acclaimed The Wind in the Willows are back working their magic in Chester’s Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre this summer. Their latest offering is an inventive and unique adaptation of Clive King’s legendary 1963 novel, Stig of the Dump.

The play tells the story of lonely8-year-oldd Barney, who goes to stay with his grandparents on the chalk Downs of southern England. Suffering at the hands of the local gang of bullies, the Snargets, Barney’s luck begins to change when tumbles over the edge of an old chalk pit into the rubbish-dump den of Stig.

The highly innovative creative design of the set, costumes and music smoothly transport the audience into the world of Stig. The use of an array of scrap items such as empty wine bottles, dustbin lids and hollow steel tubes provides wonderfully effective percussion throughout, as well as cleverly reflecting the context of the story. In a similarly resourceful effort, the cast are used to full effect, both in becoming objects for changes in scene settings (an actor with a lampshade on his head to create the grandparents’ living room comes to mind) and during impressive sections of physical theatre. Barney’s slow-motion fall in to the den, aided by the skillful choreography of cast members is a notable example of this.

John Seaward’s dynamic portrayal of Stig, through masterful puppetry skills is consistently impressive. Seaward achieves the ultimate aim of this art-form, in which he as the puppet-master disappears and the audience are allowed to engage with the character of Stig throughout. Anton Cross also creates many poignant and moving moments in his delivery as Barney, although smooth delivery of lines occasional falters and affects the flow of the script at times.

The audience, both young and old alike, remain engaged and invested in this production throughout. The show picks up further momentum towards the end, in which Act 2 culminates in agripping sequence of time travel. The original delivery of this section is both emotive and humourous, transporting the audience back further to an engrossing scene involving Stig’s own caveman tribe. The scene change back to modern-times, indicated by a crackling radio broadcast of England’s 1966 World Cup win, is another clever touch of detail (though perhaps goes over the heads of younger viewers).

On the whole, Stig of the Dump is a fantastic family show. Encompassing a meaningful plotline, humour, engaging characters and new ventures in creative production, this is a performance not to be missed this summer.

With a target audience of children and families, this review will end on a note from 9-year-old Penny, a ‘co-reviewer’ for this show:

Stig of the Dump is an inspirational show for children. It has a clear meaning – nothing is as it seems. Barney has no friends but finds someone who believe in him – Stig. One of the best parts is when Barney and Lou are in the cave-man party. Lou makes a funny speech, which makes no sense at all but the cavemen seem to love it. The music is very interesting – it sounds like it is made of your average instruments, but is actually made of recycled rubbish, which anyone interested in being environmentally friendly will love. Highly recommended.

Runs until 21August 2016 | Image: Contributed

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The North West team is under the editorship of John Roberts. 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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