As The Hunting of the Snark drew to an end and we were applauding the cast, Little Man O, my 4¾-year old middle child, asked me if we could watch it again.
“I loved it so much Mummy,” he told me. “Can we please come again?”
“It was really brilliant,” his 6 ½ year old sister, Little Miss E, added.
And I have to say, I agree with them whole-heartedly. It’s one of the best pieces of children’s theatre we’ve seen in a long time (and we’ve seen a lot!).
A modern-day interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s classic poem, this new stage production from Sherman Cymru, in association with Alice House Theatre and RGM Productions, replaces the rhyme in favour of punchy and often humorous dialogue, with plenty of contemporary references from writer Annabel Wigoder.
It’s accompanied by an original musical score of entertaining and memorable songs from composer Gareth Cooper. But it stays faithful to the author’s style with Gemma Colclough’s staging every bit as whimsical and vividly colourful as you would expect from a man most famous for creating Alice in Wonderland.
The story follows The Banker, The Baker, The Bellman, The Butcher, The Boy and, not forgetting, The Beaver, a furry puppet who likes to knit, as they head off in search of The Snark, a mysterious and rare creature who, according to news reports, has just been sighted. The Banker wants to capture The Snark and sell it to make a lot of money and has employed The Bellman – an experienced Snark hunter – to help. The Butcher, as the name suggests, wants to eat the creature. The Baker works on the boat taking them to Snark Island and finds himself caught up in all the action, while The Boy manages to sneak aboard because he wants to spend time with his father.
Snark Island is a bright and colourful place, with green sand, purple sea and multi-coloured flowers, inhabited by a number of curious creatures the intrepid explorers meet along the way. Performed in the Sherman’s main theatre, the staging was vivid and bright, but also quite minimal, leaving plenty to the audience’s imaginations.
My children thought the multi-coloured, life-size jubjub bird was hilarious. They haven’t stopped talking about the scene where the bird made The Banker hand over his trousers, leaving him standing on stage in his boxer shorts.
The five actors really gelled as a cast – they looked like they were having so much fun. Kate Spice played The Boy with a youthful enthusiasm; Vedi Roy was his father, The Banker, who only cares about money and his mobile phone. Alex Parry is The Bellman, a Snark hunter employed by The Banker to help on their expedition, while Neal McWilliams plays The Baker and The Bandersnatcher, who likes to steal – or collect, as he calls it, anything he can find. Including, at one point, The Boy.
It was Polly Smith as The Butcher who really stood out for me. With a meat clever in her hand, and talk of all the creatures she had killed and cooked in her time, she was slightly menacing, but she was eccentric enough that my sensitive children didn’t find her scary. Such fantastic characterisation.
The cast were accompanied by one-man band “Steve” (who I was disappointed to see in the programme isn’t actually called Steve, but Jonathan Glew), who as well as providing live musical accompaniment became part of the story at times, with a few comic moments of his own.
One of the songs was all about how everything has a moral. And the moral of this story is that the mean Butcher saw her comeuppance and The Banker reconnected with his son, while realising that a little bit of silliness, rather than money, can sometimes be the answer.
I had worried my children would be a bit too young for the show – the age guidance is 7, but the three of them sat transfixed for the whole 70-minute duration, laughing their little hearts out on several occasions. Even Toddler, who never likes to sit still, only had the odd bout of restlessness, and was fascinated by what he saw on stage.
Like I said they might be younger than the recommended guidelines but that certainly didn’t affect their enjoyment and they are desperate to go again.
This is a brilliant, fun and creative piece of theatre, and highly entertaining. We definitely recommend it.
The Hunting of the Snark is at Sherman Cymru until 30th July. Tickets cost £9.
Thanks to Sherman Cymru for providing us with review tickets for this performance.
All photos are copyright Sherman Cymru and Mark Douet.
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