REVIEW: The Gruffalo’s Child (Lyric Theatre) ★★★★★

The Gruffalo’s Child comes to the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue this winter thanks to Tall Stories Theatre Company. Tall Stories have adapted a number of Julia Donaldson’s tales for the stage so the Gruffalo and his child are in good hands. The book was first published in 2004 and the first version of this show was performed in the Polka Theatre in 2005. The show returns to the West End with a new set and costumes for a festive run.

The show is a musical adaptation of the well-known tale of the Gruffalo’s Child who, in spite of her father’s warning, visits the forbidden Deep Dark Wood in search of the Big Bad Mouse while her father sleeps in his cave. In her search for the Big Bad Mouse, she meets the snake, owl and fox who all mange to convince her not to eat them.

There are three actors telling this tale. Sophie Alice plays the Gruffalo’s Child; on stage for most of the show she brings all the nervous energy and courage of the mini Gruffalo to life as she journeys through the wood with her trusty Stick Man for company. The familiar words from the story book are delivered by Catriona McKenzie. In a wonderful moment, she is transformed from narrator into the Mouse, proud of her trickery of the Gruffalo and hoping to do the same for his child. Andrew Mudie works hard, transforming into the Gruffalo as well as the snake, owl and fox, each with their own distinct character and well-chosen song.

The show is suitable for children aged 3 and over and, of course, their families. There are nods to the adults in the audience but never at the expense of the magical storytelling and the enjoyment of the little ones. Tall Stories succeed in transforming a five minute book into a 55 minute show that’s long enough to hold the interest of the young audience. The child that came with me wanted to come back again tomorrow to see the snoring Gruffalo, so I think she enjoyed it. It’s worth noting that the theatre does not provide booster cushions for children so if you plan to take a small child, you may want to bring something to help them to see over the seats and people between them and the stage.

Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
Photo: Toby Mitchell

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