This well established little tale for tinies about finding confidence, courage and independence, now back for a Christmas outing in the West End, is as engaging as ever. And like most successful theatre for very young audiences it depends on replicating the much loved book recognisably on stage. Isla Shaw’s designs function like a 3D re-creation of Axel Scheffler’s art work and, with the moveable items easily slid around the playing space, it comes off beautifully.
Ellie Bell is totally convincing and appealing as the frightened mouse who repels a series of delightful predators all played by Timothy Richey. His versatility includes a cockney fox, a marching RAF owl and a camp Spanish snake – all of them great fun. Owen Guerin narrates the story for most of its length and fulfils a chorus role with lots of entertaining gestures and funny noises. Eventually he comes on as the Gruffalo, conjured up by Mouse’s imagination and then befriended. Guerin roars, galumphs, seeks audience help and eventually turns out to be the softest thing in the Dark Wild Wood.
Of course there are no songs in the book. Andy Fiber and Andy Shaw of Jolly Good Tunes have composed some very singable crackers to flesh out the narrative and drive it along.