It began life as a storybook by Belfast artist and writer Oliver Jeffers. Anarchic, off-the-wall yet gently persuasive, his tale of a young boy who loves books is the perfect vehicle for illusionist/magician Paul Bosco McEneaney and music theatre writer Conor Mitchell. On the page, Henry’s soon-to-be insatiable appetite begins by accident. On the stage, however, accidents are to be avoided. Thus, schoolroom bullying is presented as the motivation for Henry’s gastronomic obsession. In a desperate attempt to compete with his smug, spiteful classmates, the troubled child - subversively played by Stuart Matthews - wolfs down the page of a book and becomes an instant expert.
In character from behind the piano keyboard, Mitchell marshalls the six-strong orchestra through a challenging score, cleverly punctuated by snatches of Beethoven, Gershwin and Chopin. Meanwhile, the story unfolds through a series of pointedly witty songs, the most memorable of which is a tango-inspired serenade to the world of books, brilliantly delivered by Colette Lennon’s librarian. There is huge potential in this exciting collaboration - maybe a little too much. McEneaney’s busy production currently feels a little unfocused, a play of two halves, in which Act II prompts an uncharacteristically catchy line-dancing number, as well as a nightmare scenario leading uncertainly to the final denouement.