Venture blithely into the deep dark wood
By Kim Edwards
The National Theatre was abuzz this week with excited pre-schoolers and little primary students eager to see one of their favourite picture books leap from page to stage. CDP Theatre’s touring production of The Gruffalo’s Child, based on the beloved rhyming tale by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, is a slick intelligent 55-minute performance that draws out the story and characters nicely into live action and features some exceptional young artists.
Chandel Brandimarti as the title character gives an assured and dynamic performance, balancing nicely between childish bravado and cutsey angst. Jessica Vickers holds the narrative together with demure charm as the Mouse who becomes a kind of high-energy Greek chorus, but it is Andreas Lohmeyer playing all the other characters who is given the most room to exercise his vigorous and impressive character talents: his self-parodying Snake and smarny Fox were especially entertaining.
The script is well-wrought, and the little meta-jokes were appreciated. The songs are fun and appropriate but forgettable (and the lyric about breaking necks was unpleasant!), the mobile forest set pieces are efficient and effective, and I respected the decision to have both open faces for the costumes (which prevented s scariness factor) and very simple evocative designs: the Mouse’s ears were buns of hair for example, and the Owl had some feathers sticking through his cardigan. If I was to criticise, it would be that some of these ‘theatrey’ touches were just a little too vague or confusing for the young audience, such as the Mouse enacting the footsteps, Lohmeyer having to openly discard his Gruffalo costume, or the final shadow appearing in the sky. I admire the ingenuity in dealing with these plot issues for a small touring cast, but some of the kids around were a bit bemused at times.
While the production couldn’t quite keep its lively audience constantly enthralled throughout the performance, there were regular and successful efforts to encourage audience interaction, and the final section of the show which invited the kids to finish the rhyming lines, included a fabulous slapstick chase sequence, and put a rather lovely twist in the Mouse’s closing act of kindness kept even my little toddler companion glued to the stage.
A charming and enjoyable morning all around – looking forward to more productions from this company.
14 – 19 July 2015
Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com.au or Phone 136 100
22 July 2015
Bookings: www.thecapital.com.au or Phone 03 5434 6100
23 July 2015
Bookings: www.riverlinksvenues.com.au or Phone 03 5832 9511
The Cube Wodonga
24 July 2015
Bookings: www.thecubewodonga.com.au or Phone 02 6022 9311
Image by Matthew Aberline