An alternative family show to the regular Christmas productions that pop up around the capital every December, Swallows and Amazons is an adaptation of the Arthur Ransome popular children’s novels of the 1930s and 40s.
Richard Holt (John Walker), Akiya Henry (Titty Walker), Katie Moore (Susan Walker) and Stewart Wright (Roger Walker) in Swallows and Amazons at the Vaudeville, London Photo: Simon Annand
Somewhat akin in style to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books, Ransome sets his fictional family in the Lake District where the Walker children have adventures on their boat, the Swallow.
The genius behind this production, transferred from the Bristol Old Vic is Tony-award winning director Tom Morris. The War Horse director has put his particular stamp on this production and fans of his previous work at the Battersea Arts Centre such as Ben-Hur and World Cup 1966 will appreciate the sheer inventiveness and imagination involved. Feather dusters become parrots, simple ribbons echo waves on the lake but most importantly a superlative ensemble bring the families to life, using simple yet effective physical theatre.
Chief among these performers are Akiya Henry as the feisty Titty, who opens the tale as an old woman, looking back on her childhood and Stewart Wright, simply wonderful as a burly and bearded seven-year-old Roger. Along with stage siblings Richard Holt and Katie Moore as John and Susan, the four make a remarkably believable family unit wrestling with moral dilemmas amid the rolling waves of their childhood imagination.
Helen Edmundson’s book is a charming adventure complimented by Robert Innes Hopkins quirky design and if Neil Hannon’s songs sometimes sit a little awkwardly in the narrative, you will probably be too busy having fun to notice that much.