The Vaudeville Theatre on the Strand is a pretty theatre with a lovely atmosphere, and I was really looking forward to seeing the Gruffalo adapted for stage.
The stage show of The Gruffalo is based on the children’s book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler which has become a classic. It is the story, told in a rhyme, of a mouse who goes for a walk through the wood, and encounters lots of other animals along the way who want to eat him. The clever mouse scares them off by saying he’s going for lunch with the Gruffalo, a terrifying creature who would eat them up in a flash! At the end of his walk, the mouse bumps into none other than the Gruffalo who also wants to eat him. The mouse persuades the Gruffalo not to by introducing him to all the animals he has met along the way, who are now terified, and run away. The mouse tells the Gruffalo that the animals are scared of him, and that his favourite food is Gruffalo Crumble. The Gruffalo thinks the mouse is just so scary, he had better run away too! And so the clever mouse is left in peace to eat a well earned nut. The Gruffalo has also been made into a cartoon for TV, which I really enjoyed.
It is a great tale for young children, with the clever, quick thinking mouse beating all the scary animals, and was one of my favourites when I was a bit younger. It is a ten-minute joke, told in a clever rhyme, and deserves to be world famous. The rhyme tells the story brilliantly. The memorable beginning lines (“A mouse took a stroll through the deep dark wood”) are repeated at the end when the mouse has successfully scared off all the animals who want to eat him, which makes the whole story very satisfying and clever.
I didn’t think The Gruffalo worked on stage nearly as well as in the book or on TV. The problem with the stage version is that it goes on too long, and introduces new characters (the Peacocks and the Storyteller) which don’t add anything to the story, and mean that the story loses the clever, satisfying feel of the book. Also the order of the book was jumbled up.The result was a rather boring show which didn’t hold the attention of the audience. I noticed that there were lots of kids fidgeting and making a bit of noise.
I didn’t think much of the music, which I thought was inapproprite and a bit naff, and the set was was too limited to create the idea of a wood through which the mouse journeyed. The costumes weren’t great either. They weren’t accurate to the brilliant illustrations in the book by Axel Scheffler, and weren’t particularly creative in any other respect. The programme says the company is developing some new story lines to follow, and has a new set and costumes, but I don’t think these have worked particularly well. Perhaps they should have stuck more closely to the original.
The Mouse was well acted, and scurried as you would imagine a mouse to, but the other animals weren’t so well portrayed. I think the actors were all struggling with the material. The Gruffalo moved really well, stomping around, but wasn’t really that scary. Perhaps this was deliberate as the show is meant for very young children, however the result was that the thrill of the book is lost on stage.
As an overall review, it doesnt work. To be honest, I’d stick with the book!