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Children's shows - reviews

Stick Man

Stick Man

Stick Man by Scamp Theatre, photo by Steve Ullathorne

Hertford Theatre, Hertford
12 October 2013, 3.00pm

Any show that can render my normally non-stop 3.5 year-old daughter both still and, for the most part anyway, quiet, for an hour has to be considered nothing short of a triumph!

Julia Donaldson’s Stick Man is a favourite book in our house. The day it arrived we read it five times at the first sitting.

But with the exception of Tom Hardy’s Heathcliffe, I find book adaptations risky,

We took a chance on Stick Man because other recreations of Donaldson’s work on the stage have always been a hit with us so it was with great relief that this too faithfully captured the spirit of the tale.

“Stick Man lives in the family tree With his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three…”, the story begins.

But the head of the house gets caught up in events he can’t control. Yet, far from being a Kafka-esque nightmare, the story, like the Gruffalo author’s other tales is full of warmth and fun.

Using just three cast members – Richard Kiess, Alex Tosh and Cassie Vallance – Scamp Theatre’s adaptation is very creative and flows seamlessly from one scene to the next. Just like the book it’s a non-stop adventure.

The world outside the tree is a dangerous place for Stick Man. He passes through the seasons, being used as a dog toy, part of a swan’s nest and a pooh stick before sailing out to sea and ending up on top of a sandcastle before being gathered for firewood.

“I feel used and abused,” he realistically and understandably complains in just one of the witty asides not from the book, which make the show a delight for all ages.

The story culminates in a joyful Christmas celebration, so it is apt that there is also panto style audience participation with lost of shouting out and the cast even entering the audience at one point for a chase.

The title role wasn’t played by a man dressed as a stick, but an actor who carried a cute model of Stick Man but acted out his feelings. I think this let children recognise the character they know and love from the book much more clearly that a man with a few leaves on his head would have done!

The brilliantly simple set, designed by Katie Sykes, and clever use of props, transform the stage from sycamore tree to Santa’s sleigh by way of a river, rolling sea, beach and blizzard.

A collection of instruments on the stage, which were are used for everything from the catchy songs to sound effects, were all played by a one-man band and was fascinating to watch.

It’s an exuberant romp through a charming tale – and a great family afternoon out!

Running time: 55 minutes – perfect!

Age range: 3+ but younger siblings clearly enjoyed it too and grandparents were seen clapping along.

Other stuff: I didn’t see any merchandise and while V would have loved a Stick Man puppet, I breathed a blessed sigh of relief!

For tour dates see Scamp Theatre

More about Hertford Theatre

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