Paul T Davies reviews David Wood's adaptation of Dick King-Smith's Babe The Sheep Pig which is now playing at the Mercury Theatre Colchester.
Babe the Sheep Pig.
Mercury Theatre, Colchester.
2 July 2018
The tradition of the Mercury Theatre summer family show began a few years ago, and, since the first one, the company set the bar incredibly high. Each year I think they will never beat it, and this year I have been proved wrong again. From the first baa to the final “That’ll do”, Babe the Sheep pig had me and the audience utterly captivated. The story of the little pig who is trained to understand sheep well enough to win the National Sheep Dog trials is charm itself, and an excellent company create an atmosphere that is impossible to resist.
The ensemble is terrific and multi-talented, playing a range of instruments and characters and never missing a beat. Gareth Clarke is a warm and hugely likeable Farmer Hoggett, a man of few words who nevertheless beats the odds, and Jonathan Cobb brings Babe to life with glorious ease. He must be the most overlooked member of the company; you look at Babe not at him! Jessica Dyas is a wonderful Fly, our narrator and friend, who learns that sheep are not at all stupid. Ebony Freare, Rachel Hammond, James Peake, Heather Phoenix and Joseph Tweedale are all, quite simply, outstanding as sheep and a range of characters, their versatility and quick costume changes are astonishing! Every character is well defined and different; I particularly loved Bryn, the Welsh sheep dog with a touch of Tom Jones flair, wise sheep Ma, and Cockerel, strutting about the stage blowing his own trumpet!
David Wood’s classic adaptation of the Dick King-Smith book is economical, but leaves out none of the plot or magic, and director Katie Posner has created a perfect family show. It’s also another triumph for designer Sara Perks, who has created a picture book farm with costumes that delight. The only cautionary note I would strike is that there is a heart stopping moment just before the interval, and a nightmare dream sequence that little ones may be scared by. But don’t worry; it works out fine in the end!
The tradition of inviting younger members up onto the stage to meet the cast is also in place, and I love this as I’m convinced I can see future theatre makers being born here! Whether you know the tale because of the film, or the book, or even if you don’t know the story at all, get yourself along to the Mercury for the big treat of the summer! At the end of the play, Famer Hoggett says, “That’ll do.” Well, Mercury Theatre, it will do more than do- its perfect!
Until 26 August 2018