The Gruffalo review

The Gruffalo review

Forget the Boogie man, Samhain or the Big Bad Wolf, most children today are likely ready for the Gruffalo.

Originated from a children’s book written circa 1999, the tale is then developed and adapted into the form of theatre.

Performed by Tall Stories, UK, The Gruffalo has toured across the UK, Germany Australia, New Zealand, Singpore, and is now in Malaysia.

With the cast of 3, Tom Crook, Susanna Jennings and Timothy Richey lead the story, which begins with a stroll through the deep dark wood.

The story was set in a minimalist forest backdrop, simple yet functional. Lights did make up for the narration of the story — with its set up for the cold deep dark wood and the warm-witty nuances. Make up and costume for the animal characters weren’t elaborative, there weren’t too much fur, flakes or feathers involved (except for the Gruffalo suit), perhaps it was to draw the audience closer to the representation of reality, instead of a full blown animal-kingdom-simulation.

Before going further, the story revolves on the protagonist, a mouse, on its journey to source for food — particularly a nut in this case. Bolded its way through, the mouse encountered dangerous animals whilst searching for food in the dark woods, and had to survive with its wit, and the Gruffalo — a monster that’s described to be a half buffalo and half grizzly bear.

Some of the character costumes were made creative and effectively, the dangerous animals to be mentioned in precise, which are the fox, owl and the snake. The humanistic representation of characters such as a 40s British pilot, a maracas wielding Latino and a typical gentleman–in-a-suit perhaps did connect the audience in a rather amusing and fresh perspective. Played by Timothy Richey, the predators were acted with a versatile and unique switch, each having its own comical sense, be it flashy-flamboyant, the representation of Mr. Know-It-All or the funny old geezer next door.

For Susanna Jennings as the mouse, there was lack of a connection built between the actor and the audience. As a protagonist, it was vital that the character centralizes the plot by stringing the events into a linear flow. More suspense could be anticipated towards the appearance of the Gruffalo, and the happenings that it went through right after.

Apart from playing the Gruffalo, Tim Crook filled the role as a narrator before the Gruffalo’s appearance. The interaction with the mouse was with chemistry, and he did connect us the audience with much slapstick humour (both him and the predators).  The Gruffalo could be played with more dimension on the other hand, as the portrayal of the character was observed to be highly predictable. It was perhaps designed to be the friendlier version of a monster, rather than an imposing one.

The children had fun interacting with the characters, whether it was a close up Gruffalo experience (it ran through the audience seats to search for its ‘mother’), the mouse asking for directions, or the snake asking audience to wriggle on their seats to the beats of his maracas. There were much space of participation throughout the musical, responded either with laughter or encouragement from the children. It was nonetheless an entertaining piece for the kids, teachers and parents.

The Gruffalo by Tall Stories did support itself as a material for children’s theatre. The standards were achieved — movement, acting, singing, and basic entertainment value - However, it was not impressing in all aspects as a whole, and it was also lack of the element of surprise. Having that said, if your children or you yourself are a fan of monsters, it will be a great time spent with the mouse, the predators and the Gruffalo.

Pictures courtesy of Gardner&Wife Theatre.


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