If you don’t know who Julia Donaldson is, you either don’t have kids, or your kids don’t have books. The Gruffalo author has written 27 banging kid’s books: Room On The Broom, Stick Man, What the Ladybird Heard, to name just a few. Together with Axel Scheffler (the illustrator who is to Donaldson as Blake was to Dahl, ideologically inseparable, so that while the illustrator writes and illustrates their own books also, and the author sometimes works with other illustrators, their work is deeply intertwined) they have captured the imagination of children everywhere and the texts have become a meaningful part of family life for many. This show recognizes as much: the puppets and sets constructed around Scheffler’s illustrations truly capture the feel of the original drawings. This is only as it should be. These children came here to see a Gruffalo and it is imperative that the real one appears.
This is a family show in every respect. There’s so much happiness and excitement in the room that it can’t help but rub off the parents, a truly uplifting hour. The little company – which features Julia’s husband and sister – brings its own wonderful family dynamic, too. These are playful people who quite obviously love children and are having an absolute hoot together. The staging is extremely inventive. The stage itself is a pile of giant books from which interesting things are pulled, and pages are turned to make changes in the sets. The props – there are plenty – are skillfully deployed to accompany the storytelling. Music, song, some good-natured (and adorable) onstage child-participation, and singalong moments with accompanying actions for the whole crowd – there’s a lot to see and do. The production packs in five different stories, telling them in inventive and varied ways, with no shortage of silliness.
At the time of writing, there are only tickets left for seven dates. Go. Go now. If you only take your kids to one show this Fringe, make it this one.