ROOM ON THE BROOM
by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.
Arts Depot 5 Nether Street Tally Ho Corner N12 9GA 8 December-3 January 2016.
10am 8-10, 14-17 Dec.
11am 12, 13, 19-24, 26-31 Dec, 2, 3 Jan.
1.30pm 8, 10, 14-17 Dec.
2.30pm 12, 13, 19-24, 26-31 Dec, 2, 3 Jan.
4.30pm 9 Dec.
Runs 1hr 10min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 8369 5454.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 29 August at Oxford Playhouse.
Colourful stage adaptation.
Olivia Jacobs and her Tall Stories theatre company have done valuable work in filling, along with Scamp Theatre, a space in theatrical work geared towards young audiences (3+ in the case of this show, which will be filling the North Finchley Christmas slot following extensive touring earlier in the year).
This is theatre performed to an audience (a large one in the case of a near-capacity Oxford Playhouse) rather than performed with them, as happens with smaller-scale work which allows time for audience reflection and responses.
Here the story whips you along. Tall Stories particularly enjoys dramatising the picture books written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler – they have made The Gruffalo their own on stage.
At worst – though Jacobs’ work is far from that – this could be exploitative, aimed at gathering parental pounds by offering the surface familiarities of a book while ignoring the qualities a dramatic script and actors on stage can incorporate.
The recognition factor – which is undoubtedly necessary to sell tickets en masse – has always been matched in Tall Stories’ work by a care for production values and an unobtrusive pointing of the deeper content of Donaldson and Scheffler’s work. That remains the case here, while recreating the story as a dream of young campers merges human actors into a story filled with animal characters.
This size of theatre means there are compromises. Amplification becomes more noticeable and the unity of actors and audience together – the particular property of theatre – is lessened.
Pre-show badinage among the campers seemed fun for the front rows. Further back audience members hardly noticed it was happening, many simply continuing necessary show-watching preliminaries. Making imaginative contact with characters can be like feeling something through a soft intervening wall; imaginative participation in the adventure becomes a spectator sport.
Still, the colour is beautifully reminiscent of the book. The Witch’s emergence among the young campers is a delightful surprise, and the idea of mutual help bringing gains all round develops organically through the story, while the show’s final moments breathe a renewed reality into the campers’ memories of the Witch.
Dog/Frog: David Garrud.
Cat: Alexandra Harman.
Witch: Amy Harris.
Bird/Dragon: Luke McConnell.
Director: Olivia Jacobs.
Designer: Morgan Large.
Lighting: James Whiteside.
Puppets: Yvonne Stone.
Choreographer/associate director: Morag Cross.