The tale of Elmer and his existential crisis has been entertaining very young children for 30 years, so he has packed his trunk and hit the road in celebration of this milestone.
Brought to life by four puppeteers, the story could hardly be simpler but the message underlying it remains as pertinent as ever. Elmer, desperate to fit in with his grey herd, sets out to hide his multicoloured nature until realising the importance of accepting who he is.
The staging and puppetry are impressive, but for a show pitched at children over the age of one, the script – adapted from David McKee’s bestselling books by Jonathan Rockefeller and Suzanne Maynard Miller – is surprisingly verbose. Coupled with the episodic nature of Elmer’s encounters with the other animals, from frogs to monkeys, the pace drags.
This is a pity because the show is energetically performed by a versatile cast, and Richard Evans’ designs are fittingly colourful and inventive. Stand out moments include a flock of helpful birds attempting to hide Elmer with felt leaves, and a duo of jaunty zebras.
The songs, by Allison Leyton-Brown, are somewhat formulaic but undeniably catchy and aid the storytelling. When the zebras sing in praise of black and white being “better together than apart”, it’s hard to resist standing up and cheering. Elmer is a true hero for our times.