Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales
Leicester Square Theatre
9th August 2015
They say it’s good to embrace your inner child and I’ve taken it to the extreme this weekend. After attending the sublime Hetty Feather on Friday night and watching Pixar’s wonderful Inside Out on Saturday, what better weekend to review a showcase of Julia Donaldson’s most popular kids stories?
This production was directed by the highly regarded Sally Cookson, who was also the genius behind Hetty Feather. There were a few clear similarities between the two; the busy and lively stage resembling a child’s playroom, the use of on-stage sound effects and the inventive use of props. However, this was clearly pitched at a much lower age than Hetty Feather and this was reflected in the storylines (so no lip quivering moments of sadness).
The hour-long show covered four of Donaldson’s famous books (although not The Gruffalo which seemed to upset the child next to me); Tiddler, Monkey Puzzle, The Smartest Giant in Town and A Squash and a Squeeze. They were all great fun, especially the latter, which featured Darren Seed hilariously playing the old woman as a wonderfully flamboyant Southern belle.
There was a Dr Seuss type quality to a lot of the lyrics and the charming amateurism of the ‘animals’ raised lots of laughs, as pillows became cows and scarves became snakes. There was also a neat bit of projection, with an array of sea creatures being represented on a white sheet. The cast also played their own instruments on stage, with Joe Carey (who looks remarkably like the comedian Alan Davies) particularly impressing on the trumpet.
Most of the humour was physical and slapstick, which the three person cast embraced in a suitably silly and lively way. Darren Seed particularly stood out; he has a wonderful range of facial expressions and a fantastic talent for character acting. Joe Carey was also highly amusing, especially as the lumbering and likeable Smartest Giant in Town. Peta Maurice completed the trio, playing a convincing Cornish fisherwoman during Tiddler.
Whilst I am clearly not the target audience for this production, the kids around me loved it and it is easy to see how it would be a great day out for any family with young kids. Donaldson’s tales are simple and enjoyable and the enthusiastic cast and direction make it certainly worth the trip.