Radlett Centre, Radlett
4.30pm, 1 April 2015
For anybody who has had to sit through performers dressed up in garish mascot style costumes singing tired old songs thinly linked together with what could loosely be called a plot – the latest Tall Stories production is – as usual – a welcome relief!
This is proper theatre for a young audience that gets the grown-ups who accompany them thinking too.
The book famously tells of of a snail who longs to see the world, so hitches a lift on the tail of a humpback whale. But then the whale gets beached and it’s up to the snail to save him.
It’s not a long book – but as usual, this company – who also created The Gruffalo and the Room on the Broom stage shows – manage to turn it into 50 minutes of enthralling inventiveness.
The show follows the snail’s journey, but it’s seen through the eyes of a girl (Lucy Grace) who longs to travel with her sailor father (Tim Hibberd) who is just about to head back out to sea.
As the pair act out the story together, mainly through the dad’s dispatches home, the bond between the two animals is cleverly paralleled with the child and her father’s relationship and in doing so is both funny and poignant.
The dad’s tape of him telling the story makes the tale come alive in his daughter’s bedroom – showing the power of imagination while at the same time making the audience think about parental love, the pain of separation and how it can be remedied.
This imaginative element gives it real depth for adults while the fast-moving storytelling and inventive use of props keep the younger ones captivated – a perfect family show.
Isla Shaw’s design is so inventive with excellent use of furniture and props which are moved and changed to represent the whale, the ship, a working volcano and frankly anything else that’s needed – before the whole audience becomes a class of school children who must save the day.
Sound effects and sea shanty songs are played on the viola by the narrator (Charlotte Mafham) who is also the grown-up child, which makes the ending more than a little emotional as you realise her dad is no longer around.
It’s heart-warming and sensitive – Tall Stories is such an apt name for this company as it’s head and shoulders above so many others!
I really loved the whale – they used the shelves to make his head!
Run time: 50 minutes with no interval.
Age range: 4+
Other stuff: We got a free programme (yay!) and bought a toy snail for a fiver. You could also buy the book and activity books and toys for between £5 and £10 – I would have really liked to have bought the wooden snails in the production though – maybe a marketing idea for the future?!
Find more details on www.tallstories.org.uk