July 26, 2007
There may be some of us who are a little scared when we first see the big hairy Gruffalo on stage but within minutes we find he is a big softy at heart and a great teller of Julia Donaldson’s picture book story. In this one hour long sequel to ‘The Gruffalo’, the tale is told from ‘The Gruffalo’s child’ point of view. In spite of Daddy Gruffalo’s stern warning about a terrifying mouse, his child has decided to set foot in the deep dark wood with just a stick for safety. Isla Shaw cleverly designs a shady atmospheric wood so that the tall sculptural trees can be moved about as the fast moving chases circle around them. The many predators our new friend, the Gruffalo’s child, meets along her way are all marvellously played by Felix Hayes in Olivia Jacobs’ and Toby Mitchell’s brilliant stage adaptation of a classic children’s book. The Gruffalo is a father at home worrying about his child who has left to find out about life on her own terms. The tomboy nature of his child, played with vibrant energy by Yvette Clutterbuck, refuses to believe that the big bad mouse truly exists. Toe-tapping music by Jon Fiber and Andy Shaw has everyone singing along with the action and the cast leads us in hand-clapping, sound-effect-making audience participation. But before she can find the mouse the child needs to get past a hip-swinging Hispanic Snake in a silver sequinned jacket, an owl that insists on us all taking flying lessons and a wide-boy geezer of a fox who curiously wants to know all our names. The sublime character movement skills employed by the ensemble is second to none and brings out the colourful personality of characters we may only have previously met in our imagination. Abbey Norman is a perfectly sweet mouse and doubles as narrator in this company who excels at story telling in a visually engaging style.