Family theatre in August

A rare summer in the city for me means I can take in some of the family shows on in the West End right now – Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear the Musical, The Scarecrow’s Wedding, Where is Peter Rabbit? and Monstersaurus 

“Microscopic Bobby was my wife”

Photo © TheOtherRichard

The world of Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear the Musical (suitable for 7yrs+) as imagined by director Amy Hodge and designer Georgia Lowe is a fantastically bizarre one, full of warm and witty touches that shoud delight children and adults alike. Tiny gingerbread professors, menacing sunflowers, dancing doughnuts, a rainforest of umbrellas, it is an impressive and inventive take on imaginative world-building that perfectly suits Andy Stanton’s storytelling.

All things told, it is a fairly slight tale – bears, beers, butchers, you know the usual, but there’s just such a sense of fun about the whole proceedings. The cast revel in non-sequiturs aplenty (Helena Lymbery, Steve Furst and Gary Wilmot particularly impress), Jim Fortune’s eclectic score builds in post-modern layers that further pique the interest, and the show even manages to sneak in some pretty powerful messaging among all the madness. Recommended. Continue reading “Family theatre in August”

Review: All Creatures Great and Small, Yvonne Arnaud

“It takes the death of an animal to make them see sense”

There’s no doubting that here and now, a television adaptation full of television stars is a safe bet for a theatre tour but whilst one may think better the devil you know, this version of All Creatures Great and Small demonstrates the difficulties in transferring something so beloved onto the stage. Simon Stallworthy based his play on two of James Herriot’s original books – If Only They Could Talk and It Shouldn’t Happen To A Vet – rather than the TV series and though there’s ingenuity in the way it is crafted (without using any livestock on stage…) its flat, episodic nature lacks energy leaving me a deeper shade of blue.

We open with – what else – a cow experiencing difficulties whilst giving birth and inexperienced vet James manages to avert a tragedy with his veterinary skills, ensuring the calf is born with a nice strong heartbeat. From there, we cycle through his arrival in the Yorkshire Dales, being taken under the wing of the idiosyncratic Farnon brothers and meeting 5, 6, 7, 8, any number of gruff farmers whom he has to win over whilst coming to terms with the realities of becoming a practicing vet. And of course it proves to be a summer of love as a chain reaction of events means he meets Helen, his eventual wife-to-be.  Continue reading “Review: All Creatures Great and Small, Yvonne Arnaud”