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London with kids Christmas ideas {Part 3}: The Gruffalo Live (Vaudeville Theatre)

The Gruffalo, the adventures of Mouse taking a stroll through the deep dark wood, is a pretty much compulsory children’s book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler and has been adapted for the stage as a musical play – The Gruffalo Live! by the Tall Stories Theatre Company, directed by Olivia Jacobs. We were invited to a performance at the Vaudeville Theatre on the Strand during their Christmas run, and we were delighted to attend, after all, there’s no such thing as a Gruffalo… is there?

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We took our usual small critics, Pip (3) and her cousin (male, 4) and they loved it. They both love the book and the film adaptation and can repeat the whole thing pretty much word for word, so it was a pleasure seeing their reaction to this stage adaptation. I have to admit that personally, the book is not a particular favourite, so I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the show. My husband went so far as to declare it the best children’s show he’d seen.

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The woodland set (by Isla Shaw) did justice perfectly to Scheffler’s drawings and the Tall Story Theatre Company have done an excellent job of taking the key characters and elements of the book and adding additional layers of characterisation and complexity to the script such that even the adults were laughing at some of the jokes. All of the actors were excellent, but for me, Owen Guerin as the narrator/Gruffalo stood out, largely in part due to his comic timing. “Nut-thing compares to…” he warbled, teasing Mouse with a nut (I do love a good pun). The extra layers in this version added, for me, some welcome nuance which the story lacks, although I am clearly in the minority and not the target audience, and every single child I’ve ever met loves the story and the repetition.

In particular, I loved the way that Mouse’s predators were brought to life, including the RAF owl and the camp, vain, snake-charmer like snake, as well as the use of actions and dance to build up the tension.

The show runs for 55 minutes and includes enough audience participation that the children were hugely involved, but not so much as to drag. The children were all shrieking with laughter, and at one point, Pip hid in my lap but before long, even she was unable to resist singing along with the Gruffalo!

5 stars from us, and a highly recommended outing away from the usual Christmas festivities. There was a slight nod to Christmas with a small Christmas song and some snow, but aside from that, a welcome distraction from the season. Go and see it.

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The Gruffalo is at the Vaudeville Theatre until 3 January 2016 and tickets are from £12.50.

We were kindly given press tickets to the performance. I received no payment for this post.

{Photos provided by the PR company}

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