Reviewed by Sally Carter
So, what better way to start half term than with a trip to the theatre to see acclaimed theatre group “Tall Stories” musical adaptation of the fabulous children’s book, “The Gruffalo’s Child”, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.
“Featuring songs, laughs and plenty of scary fun for children aged 3 and up”
I decided, as a treat, I would take just my older two children who are aged 8 and 6. The theatre was filled with families of all ages, from babes in arms to grandparents, and the performance was enjoyed by all! I know my 2½ year old would have loved it too and I wish I had taken him along with us.
So, one night the cheeky little Gruffalo (Sophie Alice) just can’t sleep and despite her dad’s warning to “Never” go into the deep dark woods, she does. Along with her Stick-Man friend to help her be brave, the Gruffalo’s Child also meets The Snake (a Spanish, Strictly Come Dancing loving party animal), The Owl (an old flight instructor) and The Fox (a wheeler-dealer, wide-boy, who could sell ice to Eskimos) on her adventure before finally meeting and confirming that the Big Bad Mouse (Catriona Mackenzie) does indeed exist… or does he? Will she get home safe to dear old dad?
At 55 minutes duration and no interval, it was the perfect length and held the little one’s attention all the way through. It kept us all engaged and entertained with catchy songs, clever and endearing characterisation, modern references and “in jokes” as well as plenty of good old fashioned, audience participation. And all of this pulled off by an amazing cast of just 3! A special mention should go to actor Andrew Mudie who played not only The Gruffalo, but all the predators too!
The Gruffalo and Gruffalo’s Childs costumes were perfect; remembering every detail from purple prickles to turned out toes and their fur looked so warm and fluffy, you almost wanted to snuggle down with them and go to sleep. The simpler, yet extremely effective costumes of the woodland creatures added perfectly to their characters. The sparse set and props used and manoeuvred by the actors to help tell the story were ideal. You felt as if you were right there in the deep, dark woods with them.
Joint Directors Olivia Jacobs and Toby Mitchell along with the Tall Stories team have pulled off another truly great and heart-warming musical adaptation of a children’s favourite and I’m sure it will be a success everywhere they take it.
The theatre was easy to find using the sat nav and the excellent directions from the theatre’s website. I took the advice given on the website and parked in the pay & display car park on University Road. The theatre was just a short walk away on the opposite side and despite having to cross a busy main road this could be done easily making use or the crossing. Being on one of the university campuses, it also benefits from excellent public transport links, with the city link buses stopping right outside the theatre and running approx. every 10 minutes.
The staff were friendly and helpful, both at the box office and in the auditorium. If you haven’t been to the theatre before and have small children, I would highly recommend seeking advice from a member of staff when booking to help select the right seats for your party, so that everyone can enjoy the best possible view of the stage. There is a cafe/bar where you can purchase drinks, cakes or even have lunch and there was a shop selling ice-cream and merchandise – cuddly Gruffalo’s Child toys seemed very popular, so hold on to your purse strings – however, the souvenir programs were free and contain activities and colouring for the children and even a recipe for the famous Gruffalo Crumble!
We give this show 5 stars and would recommend Nuffield Southampton Theatres too.
Tickets cost £12 each
The Gruffalo’s Child is at the Nuffield Southampton Theatres from 23-28 October 2017, for more information or to book tickets visit www.nstheatres.co.uk or call the box office on 023 8067 1771.
Nuffield Southampton Theatres, University Road, Southampton, SO17 1TR