By Charly Ralph
First published back in 1999, Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo has definitely stood the test of time and is still a much loved children’s book today. Having been adapted for the stage by Tall Stories Theatre Company, The Gruffalo has roared his way back to London’s West End celebrating his 15th anniversary treading the boards. For a limited season, this children’s fantasy story will be brought to life once more, on stage at London’s Lyric Theatre, for audiences of all ages.
It tells the story of a mouse, walking through the deep, dark wood, and how she escapes the clutches of the dangerous animals she meets along the way. With a fox, an owl and a snake to contend with, the mouse warns them all of her friend the Gruffalo, a hybrid monster with large tusks and bright orange eyes. As the animals flee in fear, the mouse celebrates the success of her plan as after all, there’s no such thing as a Gruffalo… right?
As the audience take to their seats, the sounds of the deep, dark wood echo around the theatre. The illustrative design of the simple yet effective set makes it instantly recognisable to those watching who are familiar with the book. Initially introduced as narrators, the cast begin to transform, with clever costume extensions, into the enchanting locals of the wood. Ellie Bell’s Mouse is confident and smart, naturally engaging with the audience as she invites them to join her on her journey.
Equally as charming are Charlie Guest (Fox, Owl and Snake) and Steve McCourt (The Gruffalo), who each possess a substantial amount of comedic timing which is appreciated by both children and adults alike. Although not the most inspiring of scripts for those over the age of 10, the three members of the cast share a chemistry on stage which allows the production to flow naturally and is consequently more enjoyable to watch.
The wonderfully talented trio give each character a unique personality, with expressive vocals and sound effects reminiscent of when bedtime stories are read to children. This dialogue is enhanced further by carefully constructed choreography from Morag Cross that skilfully animates the storyline as its taking place, especially when the characters act out the features of The Gruffalo.
The music’s uncomplicated melodies fall slightly short of showcasing the best of the actor’s abilities but does allow the younger members of the audience to participate throughout the show, creating an interactive experience. From beginning to end the atmosphere was one of excitement led mostly by the cast’s commitment to both the story and their audience.
The Gruffalo is a fun introduction to the world of theatre for children and an enjoyable show for all the family. As the story’s fan base continues to grow with new generations, there is a definite place for The Gruffalo in London’s Theatre land. Olivia Jacobs’ (Director) on stage adaptation is a magical experience for all fans, old and new, and this particular run has now been extended until the 8th January 2017.