Most parents who have had children in the last twenty years will be familiar with the award winning literary pairing of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. From The Gruffalo to Tiddler their stories delight all ages. Stick Man is no exception. Brought to life on the stage and performed with gusto by Scamp Theatre, this show combines music, puppetry and interactive theatre to thrill their young (and slightly older) audience.
Stick Man lives in the Family Tree with his Stick Wife and Stick Children three. One day he goes out for a run, but circumstances conspire to stop him getting home again. Mistaken for being merely a stick he is chewed by a dog, used as a bat and thrown into a river from where he drifts out to sea. The set is simple, with just a raised box in the centre with two ramps coming off the sides, but this is used to great effect as a tree-house, a nest and a sleigh. There is an elegant simplicity about this piece, as the lighting restricts itself to mainly single colour washes and different animals are emphasised merely by either percussion or single instruments, but the imagination behind it all is captivating. There are a couple of songs which run through the production and are sung live with a mixture of recorded and live accompaniment, which have catchy hooks and jaunty tunes. The performances are almost flawless, and if there is a criticism to be made at all it would be that the lyrics were not always entirely clear during the songs. That a couple of the actor’s voices were slightly croaking, most likely for seasonal reasons, may have to contributed to this though, and it wasn’t significant enough to detract from the overall enjoyment of the production. There is excellent use of props, with umbrellas, boxes and balls carrying the action from place to place. This enables an element of slapstick to come into play, and with a perfect amount of audience interaction, this keeps the kids highly entertained.
Billed as being suitable for ages 3+, Stick Man really is a show for the whole family. The two mini-spotlighters at this performance were 8 and 18 months and both visibly had an absolute blast. The younger one shrieked with delight at the props and clapped along with the songs, while the elder thought the script hilarious. This is a well constructed show, well though out and perfect for the time of year. It almost certainly helps that the source material was wonderful, but nothing should be taken away from the craft of a brilliant children’s theatre company.