Wilde Creatures may be Tall Stories best production to date
- Kelly Apter
- 11 January 2018
Team behind The Gruffalo hit the spot with this lively and entertaining re-telling of Oscar Wilde's fairy tales
You know a show has gotten under your skin, or more specifically into your ear, when you're still singing songs from it a week after viewing. It's not the first time Tall Stories has done this to us, as fans of The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo's Child, Room on the Broom and the company's many other theatrical hits will know, but it may well be the best.
Partly because the catchy tunes that drive Wilde Creatures along are delivered by a talented cast of four actor-musicians. Armed with guitars, violin, clarinet, percussion and, of course, their voices, they deliver each of Jon Fiber and Andy Shaw's songs with an infectious zeal and musical talent that's impossible to resist.
But music is just one of the tasty ingredients Tall Stories pour into the mix. Co-writers Olivia Jacobs and Toby Mitchell had wonderful source material to draw from, in the form of Oscar Wilde's 19th century fairy stories The Devoted Friend, The Nightingale and the Rose and The Birthday of the Infanta, but they've still managed to make the tales their own.
Using the town statue as the starting point (a clever nod to The Happy Prince), we join the cast in its search for a worthy contender for the empty pedestal. First we meet Hans the flower-grower, whose good nature is repeatedly taken advantage of by Hugh the miller. Then comes the student, whose shallow longing for a red rose to impress a prospective girlfriend proves fruitless. And finally, a spoiled young princess finally gets the chance to play with another child.
Each tale has a moral heart beating within it, gently shared with wit and skill by the performers, and aided by Barney George's ingenious design, that evolves with each story.
Having worked with many of Julia Donaldson's books over the years, Tall Stories is no stranger to adaptation for younger audiences – but with Oscar Wilde, they've found a vehicle to entertain just about anyone aged five and over.
Reviewed at Vaudeville Theatre, London. Touring soon.