Following their successful adaptation of David Williams’ book The Midnight Gang last year, Chickenshed present their 2018 summer production, an adaptation of a Walliams’ best-seller, Mr Stink. 12 year old Chloe is unhappy at home, overshadowed by her “multi-talented” younger sister Annabelle, and has no friends at school. No friends until, one day, an unlikely friendship blossoms when she approaches a local tramp and his dog.
The show’s larger-than-life set (Keith Dunne) is wonderful to look at, with Chloe’s family home consisting of two floors and looking like it has jumped straight out of the pages of Walliams’ book. The show is set during the Christmas period, signified through the use of understated, yet effective, fairy lights, framing the set.
The role of Chloe is shared between two young actresses but, on this occasion, Lucy-Mae Beacock took on the part. Lucy-Mae most definitely shines as Chloe, displaying high levels of energy as well as a lovely singing voice. Mother Crumb, Chloe’s posh mum, is entertainingly played by Belinda McGuirk who creates numerous laughs through the delivery of her character’s lines. Although these particular performers stand out, the entire cast should be commended for their efforts and the work that has clearly gone into all of their performances.
The show includes some fantastic chorus work, with the performers working well together as townspeople. They showcase some great choreography and vocals and provide enjoyable interludes between the main scenes. Original songs by Musical Director, Dave Carey, and Director, Lou Stein, meet the usual high standard of Chickenshed and are catchy, as well as complimenting the story well.
There’s no doubt that Chickenshed have triumphed with this show. An already heart-warming story is brought to life by a talented group of performers and creative team. It seems fitting that a theatre company that celebrates diversity and inclusiveness should create a stage adaptation of a story that does the same. Engaging, touching and fun, I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Stink – well done, Chickenshed!
“The creative team have worked their magic to such an incredibly high standard”
Whether you are six or ninety-six, I can guarantee that the hilarity of this show will appeal to everyone. David Walliams, with his impressive career as a writer and comic actor (who can forget his first number one best seller ‘Gangsta Granny’? Or his TV co-creations ‘Little Britain’ and ‘Come Fly With Me?’) delivers this wonderful story which is adapted for the stage by Neal Foster (actor, writer and creator of The Birmingham Stage Company). I knew I was in for a treat!
It is a story of a young, recently orphaned girl Stella (Georgina Leonidas). Having survived a car accident in which both her parents were killed, her Aunt Alberta (Timothy Speyer) decides to take care of her and the family estate. How kind and responsible, you might think – but things are not what they seem. As the story unfolds, it appears that Aunt Alberta has stretched the truth and well, completely lied about most of it. Realising that she is in danger, Stella does what anyone would do; befriends a friendly ghost, avoids a terrifyingly large owl and climbs up the chimney, on more than one occasion.
Timothy Speyer brought the house down. His portrayal of Aunt Alberta was both funny but equally terrifying at the same time. From his screechy high-pitched wailings to his ability to rock a matching jacket/knickerbocker combo, it’s safe to say we counted ourselves lucky that we weren’t the ones locked in that tower under Alberta’s care. I have to say, my favourite character however, was the elderly and bonkers character of Gibbon, the butler (Richard James) who never failed to present the audience with a veil of absurdity.
The creative team have worked their magic to such an incredibly high standard. The use of puppets in the production, directed by Roman Stefanski (Polka Theatre, Wimbledon and creator of touring puppet shows ‘Charlie and Lola’ and ‘Sarah and Duck’) brings Wagner the owl to life and we are also treated to a scene that turns all of our characters into puppets!
Jacqueline Trousdale, the set and costume designer for the Birmingham Stage Company, has brought so many great things together for ‘Awful Auntie’. From the set, comprising of individual turrets that are spun around to reveal the inside of Saxby Manor, to the chimney sweep uniform of Soot, our friendly ghost.
The show highlights the fabulous work that goes into a production and is inspiring for theatre-goers of all ages. Such an entertaining spectacle – I want to see it again!