from Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

Udderbelly Bristo Square To 27 August 2012.
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.

TICKETS: 0844 545 8252.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 14 August.

Colourful storytelling, superbly presented.
Scamp Theatre is developing a trail of intelligent, entertaining theatre for young people. This, from Julia Donaldson’s stories, is truly translated into stage terms and presented with top-class performances, designs and lighting to become genuinely theatrical and imaginatively stimulating. Without – as one song says, nodding to Donaldson’s most famous creation – a Gruffalo in sight, a small collection of animal-related stories are told by a clown-like trio.

There’s nothing externally of the circus clown, but there’s clown-like innocence and no sense of past or future. Life is what it is right now for these three as, in the story binding things together, they help a monkey find its mother. Each description of her leads to the wrong sort of creature, for they search-out only the specific description young monkey gives them. And he, like a child, thinks what he knows is so obvious he doesn’t have to give more than one element at a time.

And, clownishly again, they’re easily diverted from their purpose by anything that comes long, including the story of Tiddler and of the farming-woman who thinks her house is too small..

Roles are adopted with ease and joy, as these malleable figures tell – or show – their stories. No adapter is credited, which is a pity as – scripted or devised – it’s a well-structured, as well as colourful, show. Benji Bower does receive acknowledgment for his music, which is particularly strong in ‘A Squash and a Squeeze’ where song-form gives structure and a sense of ritual to the story with its repeated pattern. The surface absurdity’s further enhances with Mathew Hamper dressed-up as the old farming-woman and Joseph Carey disguised as the local wise old man.

Bower’s music allows time for the Old Man’s consideration of the farmer’s space problems before coming up with the next episode of his serial advice, controlling time and making space for visual comedy as more and more creatures are installed in the farmhouse.

It’s the most pointed example of the repetition which runs through the show, well-geared to 3+ attention and absorption of information in Sally Cookson’s expertly-judged production. Long may it tour.

Cast: Joseph Carey, Peta Dennis, Mathew Hamper.

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

2012-08-20 11:44:52

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