Edinburgh Festival Fringe children’s show review: Gruffalos, Ladybirds and Other Beasts – With Julia Donaldson, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Kelly Apter
Theatre companies such as Tall Stories and Scamp have been adapting Julia Donaldson’s picture books for years. While the woman herself has toured widely, reading from her large back catalogue and singing songs. This new show falls somewhere between the two concepts and works like a charm.
Set in a colourful, highly adaptable library space the show opens with two excitable staff members getting ready for the arrival of yes, you guessed it, Donaldson. Then in she comes, accompanied by her sister Mary and husband Malcolm – much to the delight of 300 little ones used to welcoming Julia (via her books) into their bedrooms each night.
The word “game” could have been invented for Malcolm Donaldson, who seems pretty much ready for anything. The retired paediatrician is a showman at heart and injects no small amount of humour and silliness into proceedings.
Julia and Mary are like two kind and friendly aunties, while professional actors Joanna Hutt and James Huntington keep the room buzzing with their boundless energy.
It’s a potent mix of home-spun comfort and slick theatricality that works for all ages. Then again, they’re playing to the converted. Rare is the audience member who doesn’t know all the words to Jack and the Flumflum Tree, What the Ladybird Heard, Zog, A Squash and a Squeeze and, that most treasured of beasts, The Gruffalo – having read it out loud, or listened to it, more times than memory serves.
The reason for that, of course, is they’re great stories, told with catchy rhymes and imaginative pictures. All of which is why they work so well live, too.
The sets all pay homage to the original illustrations, the stories never lose pace, and we can all join in with the lines.
Underbelly George Square, until 31 August, 11:30am / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 15 August 2015
Picture: Ian Rutherford / TSPL
Edinburgh Festivals 2015: complete coverage
• Get everything on our Festivals homepage – on desktop, mobile or tablet
• Looking for reviews? Check out the latest Scotsman reviews – or browse all the reviews ranked by star rating
• Watch all the latest videos from the #WOWwagon
• Get distracted by our Festival Blog
• Check out today’s half-price ticket deals
• Follow our social accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – and join the conversation with #WOWfest