Children’s shows, especially those based on best-selling books, easily fall into the trap of complacency around the mistaken supposition that all the audience wants to see is the book coming alive on stage.
Emma Earle’s production starts from a completely different point of departure. For a start, the choice of books – the rhyming series about specific animal protagonists and their relationships to rules – does not easily lend itself to theatre, as it is driven by word play rather than dramatic narrative.
The creative team, led by Earle and including designer Zoe Squire, composer Luke Bateman and lyricist Richy Hughes, all share the adaptation credit. This makes much sense and sets a completely new standard in children’s theatre. The resulting creation is smart, vibrant and seamless, and the audience’s anticipated familiarity with the books ends up being part of the show rather than something to simply pander to. Arrive prepared to rhyme along on cue!
Yvonne Stone’s versatile puppets are imaginatively designed to wrap around or incorporate the actors’ bodies. The actors relish the delightful zaniness of the production, which by admission from its creators evokes both Monty Python and the Muppet Show. But this show owes as much to theatrical tradition as it does to TV – the playfulness of Slava’s Snowshow comes to mind at times.
Ultimately, Oi Frog and Friends! is an enchanting and refreshing piece of theatre that celebrates collaboration and breaks new ground in children’s theatre, too. Recommended.