Leicester Square Theatre
Reviewed – 21st October 2018
“the whole cast consistently kept a sparky energy and played well to the audience”
Stick Man, one of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s many much-loved children stories, is now enjoying a stage adaptation by Freckle Productions, in a show that lifts the charm and appeal off the page and delivers it to families across a sizzling forty five minute romp.
The plot sees the titular Stick Man (Jack Benjamin) taken on a perilous adventure after being swept away from his stick family by a dog (Kate Malyon, also playing everything from a swan to a very aggressive schoolgirl) during a jog in the park; he keeps getting used and abused in different scenarios until he ends up in need of some serious help to be reunited with stick wife and children. Euan Wilson rounds out the cast, chiefly providing music (composed by Benji Bower) on all manner of instruments that provides a gleeful timbre to the action on stage. The interplay between Wilson on the saxophone and Malyon’s swan was particularly enjoyable, although the whole cast consistently kept a sparky energy and played well to the audience.
Stick Man employs a number of everyday objects in its design (Katie Skyes) that allows for the cast and director Mark Kane to let them ooze creativity when used in performance, such as a roll of blue wallpaper wrapped between two cast members acting as a river, or using umbrellas to depict a raging ocean. The results are visually delectable, and keep the audience constantly engaged as to what innovative use of regular paraphernalia will be utilised next.
The style of the show takes a number of cues from pantomime, featuring a chase through the audience, a game of catch with a beach ball, and – yes – even a ‘they’re behind you’ moment. This works wonders to invite the audience into the story, and it is telling that the sections which did not feature any participation are the ones where the audience grew restless, giving the feeling that Stick Man should have embraced a few more opportunities to include the audience.
The source material has some issues if you’re looking closely, such as that the entire journey Stick Man goes on doesn’t see him learn anything or change, and there’s no especially interesting lesson to take from the story. Crucially, however, by and large the children adored it, and were uncontainably engrossed by the show’s end. Parents looking for an alternative to the usual panto this Christmas will find a lot on offer here.
Reviewed by Tom Francis
Photography by Paul Blakemore
Leicester Square Theatre until 6th January
Previously reviewed at this venue: