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Review: Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales, at Leicester Square Theatre

18 August, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Leonie Spilsbury, Brian Hargreaves and Lauren Silver in Tiddler and Other Terrific Tales. Photo: Robin Savage

THERE once was a fish, and his name was Tiddler, he wasn’t much to look at with his plain grey scales… so begins the Julie Donaldson and Axel Scheffler story about the aquatic storyteller fish who likes a tall tale.

It is a massive hit, and if you’ve not had the pleasure of reading Tiddler, here is the low down: forget Donaldson and Schffler’s Gruffalo – as a children’s book, it blows old Gruff out the water, and now this bestseller has been brought alive as a summer stage show.

And as well as taking us on a high seas adventure with little Tiddles, the cast bring in three other books by this brilliant duo – Monkey Puzzle, The Smartest Giant in Town and A Squash and A Squeeze.

All have Donaldson’s trademark rhyming couplets and the lines, slightly jazzed-up for stage, rattle through the adventures of the protagonists with the author’s wit writ large.

Lauren Silver, Brian Hargreaves and Leonie Spilsbury, directed by Sally Cookson, are mesmerising as they leap from one story to the next. They have created a lovely piece of physical theatre, helped by a clever set design that combines live action with puppetry, and an enthusiasm for the stories sings out. Add to this their accomplished harmonies, being dab hands at an array of musical instruments, and the standard little aside jokes to the adults, this production should simply have the word “fun” stamped through it like a stick of rock.

While the adults were taken in by the larger-than-life power of the actors and the simple genius of the set design, the real joy of this show is how it kept young children interested throughout the hour-long performance. The two-year-old accompanying me sat enthralled and has not stopped babbling on about it since.

I heard a girl, aged perhaps four, pulling on her dad’s sleeve asking, imploring, when they were going to watch it again.

And no wonder. This show has more charm that Mary Poppins teaching a kitten to cuddle a baby lamb.

And like Mary, it’s pretty much perfect in every way.

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