MR STINK, David Walliams, adapted for the stage by Matthew White
In association with KW & NB Ltd, Hackney Empire and Nottingham Playhouse.
Runs: 2h 20m, one interval to 4 June.
Touring United Kingdom to 5 December
Review: Ian Spiby, Wednesday 1 June
FUN MUSICAL VERSION OF CHILDREN’S BOOK
“Fun” is a key word in this adaptation of David Walliams’ book. The audience are presented with a programme full of activities to do, all of them concerned with smells and a separate booklet contains scratch ‘n’ sniff pages (smelly socks, burps and the like) which we are invited to activate at various points throughout the show. All of them produced an audible reaction and much laughter.
The adaptable set (necessary for the long tour to theatres of all shapes and sizes) is ingeniously designed with large central doors which open to disclose various interiors, while the rest of the set contains, rather like an advent calendar, doors which open to reveal any number of surprises. Five of the cast of seven take on multi roles with some of them also doubling as puppeteers. And very well they do too, giving us vivid characterizations and, often, complex costume changes. The music and songs are pleasant with some good upbeat numbers and the choreography is neat and accomplished.
The problem I had with the show is on two levels. The most immediate is the question, “exactly who is it aimed at?”
The story is about a 12 year old girl rejected by family and schoolmates, befriending a tramp who helps her sort out her problems. All very well and good, except that the extensive humour in the story, a lot of which consists of gags of the bums and burps variety, seems aimed at much younger children -so that there is a danger of it falling between two stools .
The other difficulty is the one which makers of such recent films as “Shrek” have solved so brilliantly. To interest an audience which contains both children and adults, an entertainment must appeal simultaneously to both. But during the times where I as an adult found something interesting and/or challenging, the children in the audience became restless and bored while they lapped up the parts which I found tiresome. So for a good proportion of the time different sections of the audience were disengaged.
Having said that, the same criticism applies to many commercial pantomimes where imported stars are given slots of time to perform their acts. And pantomimes are popular enough.
So given the other considerable strengths of this production, I would think they are all set for a very successful tour.
Cast: Peter Edbrook: Mr Stink, Lotte Gilmore: Chloe, Irvine Iqbal: Raj/Prime Minister/Annabelle/Various, Julia J Nagle: Mrs Crumb/Rosamund, Mark Peachey: Mr Crumb/The Duchess/Various, Steve Blacker: Ensemble/Understudy/ASM, Abigail Lumb: Elizabeth the Cat/Ensemble/Understudy/Wardrobe Mistress.
Book Author: David Walliams, Book Illustrator: Quentin Blake, Stage Adaptation/Director: Matthew White
Composer/Orchestrations/Musical Supervisor: Matt Brind, Music Engineer: Tom Jenkins, Designer: Charlie Cridlan, Musical Director: Joe Hood, Puppets and Puppetry Design: Toby Olié, Annabelle puppet head sculpted by Jane Jones, Sound Design: Andy Shaw for Shock Productions, Lighting Design: Tony Simpson, Production Electrician: George Bishop, Choreography: Sam Spencer-Lane, Costume Supervisor: Jessica Banting, Props: Catherine Baines, Pond Costume Maker: Bek Palmer, Model Making Assistants: Catherine Baines and Jessica Giraud, Set build: Visual Scene, Production Manager: Nick May, Producer: KW&NB Ltd, Kenny Wax and Nick Brooke, General Manager: Lucy Wood, Marketing and Press: Nat Habety, Production Assistants: Adam Paulden and Benjamin Jacobs, Graphic Design for print and website: Dragonfly Design.