STICK MAN To 22 December.


based on the book by Julia Donaldson.

Scamp Theatre and Watford Palace Tour to 22 December 2010.
Runs 50min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 23 July at Watford Palace.

Scamp’s production scampers inventively over the stage – and beyond.
There’s sometimes tut-tutting at the frequency of novel adaptations rather than echt plays theatre puts on. It’s something that happens most frequently with children’s work. For what can persuade young people to sit in a room listening and watching – or loosen parental purse-strings and plastic – more assuredly than the magical name Roald Dahl?

And for the very young, where shows of an hour or under are appropriate, a well-known title gives the assurance of familiarity and appropriateness. As books for the early years usually have a significant pictorial content, there’s also the delight of visual recognition.

So why not stay at home with a good book, once you’ve found one? Enter the communal excitement of theatre – greater than cinema – and the extra dimensions actors, lighting and music, for example, can bring. Scamp Theatre’s production of Julia Donaldson’s Stick Man, illustrated by Axel Scheffler, is a fine example.

Sally Cookson’s lively and colourful production makes the most of the story’s theatrical potential. The first half particularly is full of quick-paced, inventive movement which keeps the story moving along. Stick Man and his wife emerge from a series of stick fights at the very beginning – stopping just in time to prevent them being brought unwittingly to blows.

Later the audience is asked for its help – but as the audience has also become involved by being chased through, to their great delight, this near-pantomime approach is understandable, and a useful way of varying the kind of attention needed by 3+ audiences.

There are fine performances. Mark Kane’s Stick Man ventures cheerfully forth to discover, in a traditional children’s story theme, the perils of the world outside home. Aided by some crafty puppetry, Naomi Paxton represents the creatures that threaten him – amazing how differently a dog behaves to a stick than to a human – while Brian Hargreaves’ contributions include a number of musical interventions helping mood and action along, and a stately, ritual-like megaphone hailing “Stick Man…Oh, Stick Man” each time a new peril approaches. The slow, grave call contrasts the rapidity of Kane’s performance; another subtlety of a skilful, enjoyable show.

Cast: Brian Hargreaves, Mark Kane, Naomi Paxton.

Director: Sally Cookson.
Designer: Katie Sykes.
Lighting: Elanor Higgins.
Music: Benji Bower.

2010-08-08 00:10:20

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