REVIEW: The Very Hungry Caterpillar (The Ambassadors Theatre) ★★★★★

For anyone who doesn’t know (and I imagine that’s a pretty small minority) The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a famous children’s book about a ravenous insect who (SPOILER ALERT) transforms into a beautiful butterfly via several items of foodstuff!

This was my first trip to review a piece of theatre with my two children and it turned out to be the ideal choice, particularly for my eldest, who is just two years old.

Firstly, whilst not strictly part of the show, the crack team operating the ‘buggy parking’ were a very welcome sight! Although a few more members of staff would have been useful at the end of the show to speed up the process of getting away!

The show is fifty minutes long: the perfect length for little ones with their usually shorter attention spans, and recounts theatrically not just one, but four Eric Carle books, starting with ‘The Artists who Painted a Horse’: a fantastic opportunity for puppet makers ‘The Puppet Kitchen’ to go to town on Blue Horses and polka dotted multicoloured Zebras! This piece particularly captured the imaginations of the younger audience members like my one year old, who couldn’t wait to see what animal came next.

Next was ‘Mister Seahorse’ and his journey throughout the oceans, safely stowing the eggs from his wife until they hatched and meeting other Dad fish on his travels – this was perhaps a little too wordy and conceptually difficult for some of the younger children to follow but allowed us to meet a vast array of colourful ocean life via more of the wonderfully colourful and beautifully made puppets.

The Very Lonely Firefly was delivered with American accents, which was slightly peculiar but I imagine was something to do either with recorded voices used or the author’s use of the term ‘flashlight’. This was perhaps the least captivating of the stories but the flashing lights of the group of Fireflies did provoke lots of ooos and aaaahs from the young audience.

Then came the moment we were all waiting for: an illuminated blue moon appeared centre stage to herald the arrival of the very hungry caterpillar out of it’s little egg. The assembled little ones sat enraptured as the caterpillar worked it’s way through LOTS of food!

The cast, Sarah Hamilton, Andrew Cullimore, Adam Ryan & Tim Dal Corvito do a wonderful job bringing the puppets to life with aplomb and delivering the sparse and simple dialogue with truth and clarity. There was an element of movement too, both in terms of dance and the very complicated operation of the puppets, all of which looked easy in their capable hands (and arms and legs).

This is a fantastic production for youngsters who are fans of the book and even those that have never read it. It’s an ideal introduction to live theatre for children and I could not recommend it more highly.

Reviewed by Jody Tranter
Photo: Pamela Raith Photography