Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Oh help, oh no... it's a Gruffalo!

Oh yes, that's right, we did it, we faced our fears, well, Mouse's fears really, we confronted them head on, and saw The Gruffalo Live at the Wales Millennium Centre last week.

With a note of seriousness, I was a little bit wary, I had read mixed reviews about the production. Although I think this was a good thing, I had a good idea of what we were expecting and could attempt to manage Squeaks' expectations.

Because, this is the thing, in a similar vein to The Tiger Who Came to Tea, there are only three actors taking responsibility for recreating such a fantastic book. And given there are quite a few more characters in 'The Gruffalo' this would be no easy undertaking. And I was aware that the intepretation of the characters may not have been as comprehensive as the interpretation of Squeaks.

Squeaks was sooooo excited to be going to the theatre. Even more excited as we spent the week making sure we knew the words off by heart! I love the fact that after only a handful of visits she can make the link with the theatre and get excited by it.
The Gruffalo Live


We were fortunate to have great seats (even more fortunate as we had been on a waiting list to get them). We had a row of school children behind us, which turned out to be fantastic. Squeaks has not really done the audience participation bit on other trips to the theatre, but the children behind us spurred Squeaks on and she really got involved.

Squeaks really enjoyed the first 30 minutes of the performance, and then she got bored. She became obsessed with her seat flipping up and down.
I'd like to say it was her attention span, but she has done so well on our other theatre trips.
I think it just wasn't true enough to the book, yes, the repetition works well and yes, it works well especially with songs, but I sort of felt the songs weren't upbeat enough.

I hate the idea of making my child like something, and even more so of forcing my interests on her. But I know she has loved the theatre to date, because of the way she recalls her visits.
And actually she did love The Gruffalo- she told everyone afterwards. But, I did feel like I was making her watch at times, and maybe this is just a thing parents have to do. But I'd rather not.

For me, the 'adult', it was enjoyable, it was a great interpretation of the book, and for it to get onto the stage, it has to be a translation. But it felt a bit old for a three year old, and yet the book is perfect for this age. I think of the snake, and the owl, and I think perfect adult humour... but that's ok if you've already captured the child's imagination- and I don't think it did.


So, where am I at the end of this review?
Well, Squeaks' wants to go back to the theatre, so she did enjoy it overall.
I sort of think it would be perfect for children who've never picked up 'The Gruffalo'.
But, it did keep to the book, and in getting audience engagement it did remain true to the memorable parts and get people involved.
It has made me aware that someone else's interpretation may not be yours, and that from reading up on the production it was approved by Julia Donaldson... and so, in some ways, if she's happy, who am I to comment?!

My conclusion therefore, I love taking Squeaks to the theatre, I love doing something which we both enjoy. The experience was fantastic, Squeaks loved it and I loved watching her and the show.
I don't think it was as engaging as it could have been, and this was solely due to the interpretation, not the production or the performers.
I laughed, I joined in, and I cheered, and so did Squeaks. So, in many ways my negatives are just blips.
But life is always better without the blips.

Oh, and Squeaks still reaches for 'The Gruffalo' as one of our bedtime books.

The Gruffalo Live


Disclosure: We paid for our tickets for this performance and the opinions expressed are our own.

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