“ Show: The Gruffalo / Location: The Garrick Theatre „
I took my three year old to see this production as he loves the book. I have to say, he was not impressed and neither was I. the costumes were very basic, and although the production was true to the book, it seemed very cheaply done. I was disappointed and so was my son.
As a New Year's Eve treat, we took our daughters up to London to see the stage production of The Gruffalo based on the story by Julia Donaldson. The performance, by the Tall Stories Theatre company, was at the Garrick Theatre, just off Leicester Square, and we paid £15 for each ticket which we bought on line. This seemed quite a reasonable price for any show in London, but when you consider that the entire show is left than an hour long it is not exactly cheap either.
There were only three performers in the show - the storyteller and Gruffalo (Scott Armstrong), the actor who played all the predators (David Garraud), and the actor who played the mouse (Alex Tregear). All three of these actors played the parts pretty well and all seemed to have quite good credentials.
The show is based entirely on The Gruffalo story with some extra bits and songs added in. It seemed to work pretty well and the narrator role helped it all to hang together. Both my daughters pretty much know all the words in the story off by heart so they were very happy to hear many of their much loved words and phrases being uttered on stage. There was also a certain amount of audience participation that they were very happy to join in with. In fact both girls thoroughly enjoyed the show and they really loved the addition of the songs that they had not heard before.
However, as a discerning parent I wasn't quite so convinced myself. I couldn't help being reminded of a touring school production rather than something that you would expect to see in a West End Theatre. The scenery was very makeshift - just a few rocks that could be picked up and moved. Also, with only one actor playing the fox, the snake and the owl, he needed some quick costume changes. This meant that he only wore things to suggest those characters rather than actually dressing up as them. The only real costume was that of the Gruffalo and that was very good as it contained all of the elements described in the book. Also, I felt that it would have benefitted from more than the three performers. Some additional voices to liven up the songs would have been nice and would have added some volume too. I would also have liked to have seen a bit more substantial scenery - after all the mouse is meant to be going through the deep dark woods so a few more trees would have been good! Having grumbled a bit about it all though, I have to remind myself that my daughters were more than happy with what they saw and of course we were primarily there for them.
The other thing to bear in mind is that, because it is a children's show, there were a huge number of children in the audience. Some of them were extremely young and finding it hard to cope with sitting in the theatre so there was a lot of loud crying for the actors to contend with and this did mean that at times they were quite difficult to hear! It is only what you would expect with a theatre full of children though!
I would probably recommend The Gruffalo as an introduction to taking your children to the theatre. As it is not too long or too expensive compared to some shows it is ideal especially as it is based on a story that they will already know and love. In the programme, the show is described as 'irresistibly charming!' I certainly would not go as far as that but it was enjoyable and it also seems that Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo is pretty pleased to as she is quoted in the programme saying:
'I'm delighted with the way Tall Stories has been faithful to the words and structure of the book, interpreting it with versatility, energy and quirkiness. It's an exhilarating leap from page to stage.'
The Gruffalo is showing at the Garrick Theatre until 16th January 2011.