Writer: Steven Lee
Reviewer: Jenni Dixon
The performance begins with the Old Lady and her carer involving the audience in a medley of nursery rhymes to liven the atmosphere. The set has a simple window backdrop, a huge, comfy arm chair and a cartoon style fridge. Everything is colourful and larger than life. Rather oddly a russian scientist takes over the story from early on, explaining that the action in the play is an amazing technological development (what he calls “Hard Light”) and that the Old Lady isn’t real but rather a 3D solid hologram. Unfortunately, this aspect of the show was lost on younger audience members. The scientist goes on to explain that an old manuscript was found, with most of the story missing; now it is necessary for the audience to help retell the tale.
The tale continues and the audience, prompted by the scientist, shout out which animal the Old Lady eats next. There was a good mix of songs and interaction but the whole performance lacked pace; it was very slow going in parts and could have been more punchy. A basic animation on a projected screen shows the Old Lady eating all the animals.
Both actors certainly appealed to the children, the Old Lady in particular had a good physical presence and amusing facial expressions.
Poignant points to note during the show were the fact that they included a goat in her meal courses, which does not appear in the book, a song about digestion and indigestion explaining that if you eat too much your stomach will burst, the audience is taught how to speak some Russian and you are also asked to shout “God bless her, rest in peace” when the Old Lady finally dies. Only she doesn’t die and the ending is changed with the final tag line reading “There was an old lady who swallowed a horse… she lived, of course”. So, despite it being a classic and getting the audience to vehemently scream “perhaps she’ll DIE” throughout, and having the science of overloading your digestive system being explained, she lives. You might consider this another step at political correctness gone too far?
With a run time of an hour and a half with no interval this show could do with some condensing. There was no reason for it to be so long, it lacked considerable pace and left all ages of audience members agitated. It was a fun take on an old classic and the balance of interaction and performance was just right but it could be so much better.