Julia Donaldson, the current Children’s Laureate, writes simply magical books for children. Tall Stories are getting into the habit of turning those books into enchanting theatre productions. With The Gruffalo, voted ‘best bedtime story’ by BBC Radio 2 listeners, already under their belt, they now bring Gordon Brown’s favourite children’s tale, The Snail and The Whale, to this year’s Fringe.
This is the story of how a tiny snail, with itchy feet and a sense of adventure, saves a mighty whale when he is beached on the shore after trying to avoid some noisy speedboats. It is a story invented by Dad (the whale) and Daughter (the snail) as part of the games they play when Dad is home from sea.
Daughter has a toy snail called Speedy that she lends to Dad to take on his travels. When he is lonely, she says, ‘close your eyes and hug Speedy and it’s almost like I’m there’. It is actually Daughter that longs to go with Dad, but is always told, ‘you’re too young, it’s too dangerous.’
There is a beautiful symmetry and irony in the snail saving the whale and Daughter providing, through Speedy the snail, comfort for Dad when he needs it most. As in The Gruffalo, it is the little ones that manage to take care of things in the end.
With a cast of three and inventive use of some very creatively-designed bedroom furniture, Tall Stories produced an enthralling presentation of Donaldson’s story, told from the perspective of the, now adult, daughter.
The narrator, engagingly performed by Ellie Moore, also played the viola, evoking a lyrical quality that pulled you in to the little girl’s world. Dad was played with great gusto and warmth by Martyn Dempsey, and Rhiannon Wallace gave a gentle, moving and sincere performance as Daughter.
At the end of the show, the cast announced with some excitement that Julia Donaldson herself was in the audience, which elicited loud and appreciative applause from the parents. The children, however, appeared to be more excited by the fact that Cerrie from CBeebies was also in the audience, sitting just a few rows behind.
For whatever reason, there was a real buzz in the air and everyone left with a big smile on their face. And you can’t ask for more than that!
Show times: 20th – 26th August 2012, 3:00pm
Ticket Prices: 20th – 23rd: £8.50 (£7.50). 24th – 26th: £9.50 (£8.50)