Original Book: Brian Patten
Adaptor: Lindsay Rodden
Director: Matt Rutter
Reviewer: Tate James
The third installment of this year’s Everyman Rep Season is a magical journey of storytelling, as The Story Giant emerges into his tower and onto the stage.
Once upon a time, four children enjoy a bedtime story before falling asleep in each of their four corners of the world. In their dreams, they are called to the tower of the Story Giant. Neither man nor beast and as old as time itself, he collects all of the stories in the world… except one. Racing against time to find the missing story before dawn in order to save his library from crumbling, the Story Giant enlists the help of our four young storytellers who rise to the challenge with a collection of humorous, magical and, in the most part, morally courageous tales. Yes, the format is simple, but it is the power of storytelling ton display that makes it such a compelling performance.
As the mysterious Story Giant, Richard Bremmer is eloquently masterful as his character sways with ease from dark to light, like a weathered old Willy Wonka. His initial mood at finding intruders in his library softens beautifully as he encourages the children after each of their already-heard stories. “Yes, I’ve heard it before”, he says “but not the way you told it”.
Tom Kanji is spirited and comically obnoxious as Hassan: the eight-year-old boy from a wealthy Syrian family from war-torn Aleppo, who reads himself to sleep in the back of the car, as his father drives to be reunited with his mother. Mixing his fear of the unknown with his knowledge of the extraordinary, Kanji provides much of the humour of the play with an assured performance, and his relationship with his spiritual big brother Liam, played by Elliot Kingsley, is adorable. Kingsley came through auditions with the Young Everyman Playhouse and secured a training place within the rep company, and, after debuting with a smaller role at the start of the season, he now shines with charm and heart in his first major role.
Melanie La Barrie excels once again as the bright and eccentric American 11-year old, Betts. We last saw her in a flawless portrayal of tired old housewife and mother-of-five Golde in Fiddler on the Roof, and her ability to embody a wholly convincing and loveable character, who just happens to be 50 years younger than her last role, is just as apparent in her baby pink pyjamas and unicorn slippers.
But just as the Story Giant requires a new original story to complete his library, this lineup of talent requires a shooting star of brilliance that comes in the form of Asha Kingsley as Rani, the 9-year old Indian hotel laundry worker whose love of stories inspires us all to love stories too. From her expressive opening monologue and through all of her many colourful characters, she sets the bar for how magical reading can be, in a passionate and enchanting display.
Director Matt Rutter has more than succeeded in bringing all of these fantastic tales to life within Brian Patten’s wonderful world, that will hopefully inspire a younger generation of storytellers and avid readers. Though advertised for ages six and up, this is a show for all of the family and will be especially relevant from those over eight years old for whom the joy of reading and discovering amazing lands within the pages of a book is still fresh and exciting.
Runs until Saturday 29th April 2017, then returns from 8th June until 1st July 2017
Image: Stephen Vaughan