REVIEW: THE SCARECROW’S WEDDING (Leicester Square Theatre) ★★★★★

The Scarecrows' Wedding (image from Edinburgh Festival 2015). Photo Steve Ullathorne (2)

The Scarecrows’ Wedding is the latest children’s book by long term collaborators Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, creators of The Gruffalo and many other favourites. The tale has been adapted by Scamp Theatre, best known for their stage adaptation of Stick Man, and makes its West End debut at the Leicester Square Theatre in time for the summer holidays.

For those not familiar with the story, Betty O’Barley and Harry O’Hay are scarecrows who share the same field and spend their days being good at scaring crows. Harry loves Betty, and Betty loves Harry – so they decide to have “a wedding that no one will ever forget”. After making a list of wedding day essentials, Harry sets off to search for some flowers, leaving Betty to stand guard in the field. When the farmer notices one of his scarecrows is missing, he replaces Harry with the suave Reginald Rake. Can the dashing, super cool Reginald persuade Betty that he is the scarecrow for her before Harry returns?

The simple tale is embellished with musical interludes written by Darren Clark and performed by the multi-talented cast. Donaldson’s famous rhymes work well in the songs and some familiar lines can be heard. Lucy Wells and Matthew Hamper as Betty and Harry make a good pairing as the lovestruck scarecrows. They engage well with the young audience, entering the crowd in their search for the items on their list. Michael Palmer plays the farmer and Reginald as well as the creatures Harry meets on his journey who help him in his search. His presentations of a toad and a snail are particularly fine.

The small stage is cleverly used as a variety of locations; the farm house, the field and the places on Harry’s journey. A highlight is the transformation of an armchair into a tractor which Reginald uses to try to impress Betty. A variety of animals are presented with minimal costumes and props, encouraging the audience to use their imagination.

The show is recommended for age 3+ and runs for 55 minutes. The youngsters in the audience certainly enjoyed the performance and judging by the number who stayed to have books signed by Axel Scheffler afterwards, there were a lot of fans in the house. My five year old companion decided that the show should have five stars because there was nothing else she would rather have spent her afternoon doing. If you have children in your life who are fans of Julia Donaldson’s work then you should add this wedding to your summer plans.

Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Photo: Steve Ullathorne

THE SCARECROW’S WEDDING plays at Leicester Square Theatre until 4 September 2016