Writer: Julia Donaldson
Adaptor: Tall Stories
Director: Olivia Jacobs
The story of The Gruffalo has captured the imaginations of youngsters across the world for decades. And the Tall Stories company have done an incredible job of bringing it to life on the stage, remaining loyal to the original tale while adding their own interpretations through movement, music and acting.
As soon as you walk in, the curtains are up and the deep dark wood is on display for the children to see. With the sounds of birds playing and the hustle and bustle of the auditorium, it is the perfect way to get the youngsters excited and settled into the theatre environment.
The story itself is told by three actors – Aimee Louise Bevan as the Mouse, Aaron Dart as the Gruffalo and Alastair Chisholm as the Fox, the Owl and the Snake. The trio work superbly together, bouncing from scene to scene with energy and enthusiasm that is infectious for the younger audience and that has laugh out loud moments for the adults as well. The way some dialogue goes straight over the children’s heads but appeals to the grown-ups is very panto-esque, as is the encouragement for the audience to join in at key moments including the iconic line “There’s no such thing as a Gruffalo!”. The songs are fun and break up the dialogue, although some are definitely more memorable than others, and the way the predators have been interpreted is fabulous – in particular, the samba snake!
The costumes are not full bodysuits, but rather representations of the character, so children should not expect to see a replica of Axel Scheffler’s illustrations. For those used to character visits or Peppa Pig/Disney princess style meet and greets, it is probably worth showing some pictures beforehand to get them used to the style of the show, but it is by no means a disappointment!
For anybody planning on watching the production at The Lowry, this is also a great opportunity to make the most of the Picture This exhibition, which is currently being hosted in the gallery. It’s free, next door to The Carole Nash Lookout creative play space, and showcases six popular children’s books, including daily readings of these and other titles.
Mini Julia Donaldson fans are in for a real treat with this show, and for those who have never heard of The Gruffalo before, this is an exciting introduction to her tales and to the theatre as well. Running at just an hour, it is just right (if not 15 minutes too long) for toddlers and more than perfect for those at school or with a higher attention span. It’s got everything that appeals to children, with silliness, songs and sensational performances that mean “there’s no such thing as a terrible Tall Stories show!”
Reviewed Sat 22 August 2022 and continues on Tour