Devised by Tall Stories
Director: Toby Mitchells
Reviewer: Jay Nuttall
Tall Stories is a phenomenally successful children’s theatre company. You may not be familiar with their name but you cannot have failed to miss posters for sell-out adaptations of Julia Donaldson favourites like The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child and Room on the Broom on billboards, buses and theatres. These productions continuously tour all over the UK and abroad as well as having West End homes. Indeed, The Gruffalo will undoubtedly do huge box office business for its month’s run at The Lowry this Christmas.
But one of the company’s oldest and lesser-known productions is of their own devising. The Snow Dragon is, like their adaptations of children’s picture books, grounded in a simplistic morality tale – the ingredients for any fairy tale. A Young goat, called Billy of course, is excited for New Year’s Day. You see, as every goat knows, if you collect berries and leave them out for The Snow Dragon it will visit on New Year’s Eve and leave presents in return. Sound familiar? Problem is – this isn’t the only version of the story. On his travels to collect berries Billy meets friends Spike and Rosie. Spike the Hedgehog is collecting mushrooms to leave as a gift for the Snow Unicorn and Rosie the Piglet gathering acorns for the Snow Goblin. Perhaps Billy’s ‘tradition’ is more universal than he first thought. And with the interest of wolves thrown into the mix Billy’s journey of discovery might be a little more fraught than he anticipated.
The cast of three have a packed hour of theatre as Billy’s adventure is facilitated by the other two actors. Amy Harris and Glyn Williams multi-role their way through goat parents, Spike the Hedgehog, Rose the Piglet and Mr. and Mrs. Wolf with a simple change of costume to signify their new character to the youngest of eyes. As Billy the kid goat, Danny Hendrix is bouncy and full of energy and any gambling young goat may be. With hands splayed in hoof formation there is more than an element of Mr. Spock for the adults in the audience and with a voice identical to Jake from The Tweenies there is more than a little feel of early morning pre-school children’s television in his bounding.
The trio sing their way through Billy’s discoveries to pre-recorded tracks and although appealing it is to the infants in the audience there aren’t any songs that really excite or make the audience sit up and take note. Each song is politely received with a smattering of applause but there is nothing here that a child will be humming out of the theatre or driving parents crazy repeating over the next few days.
The production has a strong moral message at heart. Perhaps the acceptance of different traditions may go above the heads of the children in the audience but the less subtle end song entitled ‘Do As You Would Be Done By’ is a sledgehammer. Despite its wit and audience interaction there is a little charm and warmth missing from this production. That said, it is fun and silly at times but missing a bit of heart.
Reviewed on 26th November. | Image: Contributed