Christmas Show Review: The Gruffalo

Ben Dowell has a look at one of the most loved children's stories brought to life in the West End

Christmas Show Review: The Gruffalo
Written By
Ben Dowell

For a Christmas treat for the little ones you could do worse than book a ticket to see The Gruffalo live stage show, a theatrical reimagining of the 1999 bestselling classic from Julia Donaldson and the illustrator Axel Scheffler.

Brought together by children theatre specialists Tall Stories, their Christmas shows at this venue are becoming an annual seasonal treat. Their Room on the Broom last year (also by Donaldson and Scheffler) was a joy.

Here the simple story (turned into a BBC cartoon a few years ago) of a mouse trying to venture into deep dark wood and avoid getting eaten is brought imaginatively to life by a cast of three.

Mouse Susanna Jennings proves a more than amiable and likable guide as she treks through the forest, encountering various predators (all played by Timothy Richey, whose sassy snake is probably the best of the bunch) and finally and most unexpectedly the Gruffalo (Tom Crook), a large bag of colourful rags and horns who perhaps doesn't resemble the creature from the book as much as he should. But he has enough energy and rambunctiousness to captivate his small audience.

Jon Fiber And Andy Shaw’s music complements things nicely, with some really tuneful numbers and there are enough jokes aimed at adults to keep the grown-ups entertained for the 50 minute running-time.

My only gripe with shows like this is a familiar one: the sale of over expensive merchandise. In this case it was £4 little flag things which one can be easily pestered to buy and which, when waved by children in front of you, can obscure the view. But it’s a minor point in an otherwise satisfying whole.

It may seem an easy thing to do but compelling children's theatre is extremely hard to effectively pull off and Tall Stories are masters at.

 * The Gruffalo plays at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London until Sunday 12 January. Lyric Theatre; box Office: 0844 412 4661


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