‘A mouse took a walk in the deep dark wood’ is the opening line to the nation’s favourite storybook, Oscar nominated TV production and now smash hit theatre show, The Gruffalo. I ventured armed with bags full of sweets, drinks and my own daughter to see if a 5 minute story could be transferred to the stage and still retain its simple quality.
First published l4 years ago this now iconic children’s tale has gone on to sell over 5 million copies and become a regular fixture on family bookshelves worldwide.The book written by former Children’s Laureate, Julia Donaldson MBE and Axel Scheffler is told completely in rhyme and the theatre production although including the lines that every child in the theatre knew off by heart veered off the script and included catchy character songs and extra dialogue.
The simple tale tells the story of ‘little brown mouse’ played energetically here by Susanna Jennings on her adventure as she takes a stroll in the woods for nuts and encounters many entertaining characters along the way.
The Gruffalo is a ‘roaring’ success…
The fox, the owl and the snake all see the mouse as potential lunch and therefore attempt to befriend her which results in her making up a friendship with the monsterous Gruffalo to scare off her prey. Playing each of the predators was the standout performer Timothy Richey, who had the kids laughing and jeering with equal delight as he donned the simplest of outfits to become the 3 characters and the snake in it’s gold sequinned jacket and bandana almost stole the show with it’s slightly camp narcissistic ways.
The biggest cheers and audience related growls belonged to the entrance of the Gruffalo played superbly by Tom Crook who doubled up as storyteller in the earlier scenes. The trio of performers have little set or costume to work with but have an energy and character that brings the production to life and it’s not only testament to the original story but to the stunning Artistic Direction of both Olivia Jacobs and Toby Mitchell and the production of Lucy Wood.
The show runs for 55 minutes and has every child (including my own) on the edge of their seats. The story maybe familiar but the way it is told is so effective it’s hard not to be drawn into this simple world and journey along with the little brown mouse until she reaches her destiny.Tall Stories the theatre company behind this show have excelled once again with their physical, visual style combined with music and laughter which has kept this show running for 14 years now and based on the audience reaction for many more.
The Gruffalo is a ‘roaring’ success and runs at The Lowry until Sunday 20th April.