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Stig of the Dump review at Arts Theatre, London – ‘fun and fast-paced’

The cast of Stig of the Dump at the Arts Theatre, London

Luke Sheppard’s production of Clive King’s timeless children’s classic Stig of the Dump is, quite appropriately, a bottomless pit of excitement. It has music, it has dancing, it has humour, it has games, and it has adventure.

The actors are on stage as the audience arrives so we can all do a warm up together and learn to play our part in the show. While there is much audience participation, there’s almost none of the customary awkwardness and timidity, thanks to the fast and upbeat pacing.

As a result the story of young Barney’s friendship with caveman Stig takes a bit of a backseat. The writing is more thoughtful than the production sometimes allows for: a solitary and comparatively dark depiction of a journey through boyhood.

In order to generate dramatic conflict, Mike Kenny’s deft adaptation foregrounds other members of Barney’s family – his eccentric grandparents and feisty sister Lou. However, it is Shepperd’s marshalling of the high octane cast, including CBeebies’ Katy Ashworth, Gabriella Slade’s meticulous set, Casey Jay Andrews’ striking puppet Stig and the responses of the eager audience that really bring this show to life. It’s a great example of ensemble work. The piece might benefit from a more varied tempo, some quieter moments and stronger punctuation to let us take in more of the potentially politically-conscious content, but if you are merely after a theatrical energy boost, you need look no further.

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Fun and fast-paced adaptation of a children’s classic that delivers an energy boost but leaves little space for reflection