WHAT THE LADYBIRD HEARD
based on the picture-book by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks music and lyrics by Jon Fiber and Andy Shaw additional lyrics by Howard Jacques.
Tour to 7 June 2014.
Runs 55min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 December at Curve (Studio) Leicester.
Bright lights, gently involving story and animals, stimulating young imaginations.
A brightly-coloured stage, a clear and simple story, and a 3+ audience enlisted on the side of right versus wrong. All wrapped-up in a familiar title from children’s writer Julia Donaldson and illustrator Lydia Monks. Plenty for those who know Ladybird to enjoy recognising; plenty for everyone to enjoy.
It’s a version expertly crafted for the stage. After a jolly musical opening down-on-the-farm, with plenty of bright bucolic cheer, things suddenly fall apart, as it becomes clear this isn’t a farm. It’s a theatre. And the two people in front of us aren’t farmers but actors.
Except they’re not even actors, but stagehands filling-in while the cast struggles to get here. And the animals they bring to stock the farm are merely painted cardboard boxes. The props have been delayed as well.
Though not, fortunately, the set. Nor some of the stage creatures, including a couple of cats who sing-along or sit quietly assertive on a window-ledge. The rest have to be manufactured from what’s available, using a child’s propensity to imagine shapes into all sorts of objects to help their imaginations.
But what about the other two characters, the villainous men who come a-stealing the farm cow? There may be some disappointed young people who have momentary hopes of taking part. But that’s the only thing that could disappoint here. The two actors who emerge from the audience to play them become the usual comically villainous pairing, Hefty Hugh giving a lead, Lanky Len trying to follow on with cheery incompetence.
The Ladybird herself has multiple appearances all over the place, a silent listener among the animal noises which give added participatory zest. But the information she imparts is vital in using those sounds to foil the dastardly plot when it occurs.
Stimulating and friendly in story, staging and performance, it is all utterly enjoyable. Designer Bek Palmer has provided ingenuity and practicality in bringing Monks’ colourful world to the stage, and director Graham Hubbard allows enough time for performances to include the audience and make the story clear without ever becoming indulgent or sluggish. A happy hour indeed.
Jo: Rosamund Hine.
Lily: Rachael Henley.
Hefty Hugh: Tom Banks.
Lanky Len: David Heywood.
Director: Graham Hubbard.
Designer: Bek Palmer.
Lighting: Ric Mountjoy.
Choreographer: Mark Hedges.
11-15 Dec Wed, Thu 11am, Fri-Sun 11am & 1.30pm Cambridge Corn Exchange 01223 357851 www.cornex.co.uk
20 Dec-10 Jan 10.30am 7-10 Jan, 11am 21-24, 27-31 Dec, 3-5 Jan, 1pm 7-9 Jan, 1.30pm 21-24, 27-31 Dec, 3-5 Jan, 3.30pm 4 Jan, 4pm 20 Dec Birmingham Town Hall 0121 345 0600 www.thsh.co.uk
20-22 Feb 11am, 2pm + Sat 4.30pm Everyman Theatre Liverpool 0151 709 4776 www.everymanplayhouse.com
26-27 Feb Wed 1.30pm & 4.30pm; Thu 10.30am & 1.30pm Churchill Theatre Bromley 0844 871 7620 www.atgtickets.com/the-churchill-theatre-bromley
28 Feb-1 March Fri 1.30pm & 4.30pm; Sat 10.30am & 1.30pm The Radlett Centre 01923 859291 www.radlettcentre.co.uk
4-5 March Tue 1.30pm; Wed 10.30am & 1.30pm Grand Theatre York 0844 871 3024 www.atgtickets.com/grand-opera-house-york
18-19 March Tue 1.30pm; Wed 10.30am & 1.30pm Regent Theatre Stoke-on-Trent 0844 871 7649 www.atgtickets.com/regent-theatre
20-22 March Thu 1.30pm; Fri, Sat 10.30am & 1.30pm Floral Pavilion New Brighton 0151 666 0000 www.floralpavilion.com
14-17 April Mon 2pm, Tue-Thu 11am & 2pm West Yorkshire Playhouse (Courtyard Theatre) Leeds 0131 213 7700 www.wyp.org.uk
24-27 April Thu, Sat 10am; Fri 10am & 1.30pm, Sun 11am & 1.30pm Theatre Royal Newcastle-upon-Tyne 08448 112 121 www.theatreroyal.co.uk
29-30 April Tue 1.30pm & 4pm, Wed 10.30am & 1.30pm Grimsby Auditorium 0844 871 3016 www.atgickets.com/grimsby-auditorium
4-6 May Sun 1.30pm, Mon, Tue 10.30am & 1.30pm Old Town Hall High Wycombe 01494 512000 www.wycombeswan.co.uk
9-11 May Fri 1.30pm, Sat, Sun 10.30am & 1.30pm Gordon Craig Theatre Stevenage 01438 363200 www.gordon-craig.co.uk
30 May-1 June Fri, Sat 11am & 2pm, Sun 11am Northcott Theatre Exeter 01392 493493 www.ezeternorthcott.co.uk
5-7 June Billingham Forum 01642 552663 www.forumtheatrebillingham.co.uk