The amiably soporific world of Sam McBratney’s cuddly bestseller, revved up and set to music in this stage adaptation for over three year olds runs sweet as a nut until bedtime.
Abbey Norman (Little Nutbrown Hare) and Paul Sockett (Big Nutbrown Hare) in Guess How Much I Love You at the Rose theatre, Kingston Photo: Chris Pearsall
David Wood has a gift for making his storybook shows an all-enveloping experience. Keeping the house lights low and inviting children to occupy a semicircular dance floor just in front of the stage serves to bridge the physical gulf between the performers and their audience.
The sense of involvement is further achieved by retaining the storybook’s look while introducing an interactive element to the proceedings. Nutbrown Hares Big and Little are joined by an observer/interpreter in the form of a little girl called Lucy (Emily Altneu, whose bouncy demeanour bears more than a passing resemblance to a CBeebies presenter).
She introduces the story using her soft toys before the creatures under discussion lollop on stage. Abbey Norman’s Little Nutbrown Hare endows the creature with a piping treble and a breathless curiosity and Paul Sockett as Big Nutbrown Hare is both playful and avuncular.
Both actors operate from within furrily elaborate hare suits designed by Susie Caulcutt to mirror Anita Jeram’s original illustrations. Caulcutt’s picturebook set, all gaudily pastoral, signal the production’s educational objective.
Wood’s adaptation encompasses a musical romp through the seasons in which children are encouraged to sing and dance along, play hide and seek and spot colours. There’s a new song for each little event in nature’s calendar before winding down with the moonlit love-in of Sam McBratney’s story.
Exuberant and reassuringly familiar, this is a cheerfully inclusive introduction to the theatre for the very young.