Oi Frog & Friends!
Reviewed – 5 December 2019
“Highly recommended for its sparkling script, extraordinary performances and wonderful design”
It’s not even Christmas yet, but if you and your kids are already suffering from a surfeit of seasonal festivities and are looking for something that won’t jingle bells and ho, ho, ho at you, (except in a non-Christmassy way) then hurry along to the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. Here you will find the delightful Oi Frog and Friends! Based on the best selling children’s book by Kes Gray and Jim Field, this fifty five minute entertainment provides all the elements of a good story, presented in a very young child friendly way. So child friendly, in fact, that this reviewer observed at least one infant happily enjoying the action. Kudos to the parents for getting their kids to good theatre at such a young age, and kudos to adaptors Emma Earle, Zoe Squire, Luke Bateman and Richy Hughes for managing such a seamless transition from the page to the stage.
Oi Frog and Friends! is not just entertainment, however. It has some important things to teach about finding one’s place (and sitting still on it) , and all the fun one can have with words while doing it. It’s a simple enough story. At the Sittingbottom School, (ho, ho) the bossy prefect Cat has the rule book about who sits on what—all determined by what rhymes with your name. Easy enough if you are a hare (chair), a fox (box) or a cat (mat). But what if you are an ostrich or a badger? Into this rule bound classroom comes Frog, a new student whose questions (and new rhymes) overturn the established order, much to Cat’s dismay, and the horror of the local media—a guest star turn by Meerkat TV’s Bob Burrows. (There’s a lot of funny punning as well as rhyming in this script, and you get drawn in. Oops).
The audience is enticed into this enchanting world by four actors who manage a breathtaking quantity of performance skills at breakneck speed. With the able direction of Emma Earle, they portray any number of animals using a combination of costumes and puppetry, and of course, sing and dance when appropriate as well. Particularly outstanding are John Winchester as Frog, and Darren Seed as Dog, but really the whole cast is brilliant at the way they leap nimbly between roles, including assisting one another when some nifty bunraku-type puppetry skills are required. Zoe Squire and Yvonne Stone, responsible for design, have come up with inventive creations that flawlessly integrate both actor and puppet into the character they play. Dog’s design is particularly clever in this respect, and it takes a skilled performer to be able to manage all the moving pieces in such a convincing way. Cat, played by Lucy Tuck, is a more conventionally designed character but still demands a lot of athleticism and comic ability. Tuck’s portrayal of a cat who is terrified of losing the last of her nine lives, is both funny and touching. The fourth member of the cast is Simon Yadoo as Cheetah, although he assists with the puppetry and takes on so many roles that it’s easy to lose count of how many times he changes costumes (and puppets). Still, his Carmen Miranda inspired turn as a Cheetah that must sit on a fajita was a big hit with the kids in the audience, and yes, even the big kids otherwise known as their parents.
In short, Oi Frog and Friends! is the perfect show to counter the pre-Christmas blahs, and satisfy the kid in all of us. Highly recommended for its sparkling script, extraordinary performances and wonderful design. It’s a rhyming good time! O.K. O.K—I’ll show myself out.
Reviewed by Dominica Plummer
Photography by Pamela Raith
Oi Frog & Friends!
Lyric Theatre until 5th January
Last ten shows reviewed by Dominica: