(reviewed at the Arts Theatre, Cambridge on 5 May)
Tall Stories Theatre Company does precisely what the name suggests. Currently on tour is its adaptation of the popular children’s book by Julia Donaldson and Alex Scheffler – Room on the Broom. For my money, any stage show which glues its very young audience to its seats for just over an hour concentrating throughout on the characters and their adventures fully justifies itself.
Olivia Jacobs is the director and Morgan Largo the designer. The puppets (of which more later) are by Yvonne Stone. Four actors are on stage (and occasionally in the auditorium) when it begins; house lights are lowered slowly as we discover that some faulty map-reading has caused four friends to spend the night in a forest clearing. It’s not exactly a case of peaceful slumbers, what with snoring and a general inability to settle down comfortably.
Is it a dream then, or even a nightmare? The two girls transform into the broomstick-riding witch (Yvette Clutterbuck) and her know-all ginger cat (Emma MacLennan), a somewhat selfish feline – but then, are they all? They set off in search of a dragon, acquiring as broom passengers the friendliest tail-wagging, slobber-jawed dog you can hope to encounter (beautifully handled by David Garrud), a green-plumaged bird (handled by Daniel Foxsmith) and an acrobatic frog with a line in grande jetée to put Nijinsky to shame (Garrud).
Various catastrophes, not to mention the dragon (Foxsmith), are met and overcome, as the ill-assorted broomstick riders learn to give as well as to take. In the end the witch earns a new, super-charged broomstick, all twinkling lights, knobs, bells and whistles. Dawn breaks, and the sleepers find themselves alone. Well, it was all a dream… wasn’t it?
Room on the Broom runs at the Arts Theatr, Cambridge until 9 May. it also plays at the Westfield Auditorium, Hatfield (4-5 July), the Palace Theatre, Westcliff (10-12 August) and the Watford Colosseum (14-15 August).