Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Review - The Gruffalo Live

A little girl took a stroll through the deep dark wood,
She spotted a theatre show and thought it might be good.
But what, dear reader, was the show all about?
And did we like it?  Come and find out....

Sophia and I had our own little adventure at the weekend.  We felt brave; we felt courageous; so we packed our bags and went in search of...the Gruffalo!

On the trail of the Gruffalo!

The Gruffalo Live is a stage show of the ever-popular book.  Performed by just three actors, it is currently travelling the UK and tells the story of the mouse that...wait, you don’t need me to tell you what the story’s about, you’ll probably – no, definitely – already know. 

So, on Saturday, we caught the train to Southend for our trip to the Palace Theatre to see the show.  Sophia’s only travelled by rail a handful of times and always loves looking out of the window.  It was when we got to the train station however, that the real excitement began.  I’d never been to this theatre before although I knew its general location.  I asked a man in a shop which way I needed to go and he pointed helpfully in one direction.  After walking for what seemed like an age, I discovered that he’d sent me in the completely wrong direction!  In the end, we got there in the nick of time thanks to a helpful and kind taxi driver.

Once in, Sophia spotted a cuddly Gruffalo for sale.  I wasn’t prepared to part with the £25 that was being demanded for it so settled for a Gruffalo flag.  Unfortunately the flag didn’t come with a stick, so it was really just a fabric Gruffalo. Hmmm.

The Gruffalo 'flag'

But, Sophia was happy and that was the main thing.  We settled into our seats, which gave us a great, close view of the stage and got ready for the performance to begin.  The lights on the stage came up and the auditorium’s main lights went down.   It was about to begin.  Unfortunately, Sophia decided she didn’t like it being so dark. 

“It’s dark mummy!  I don’t like it!  I want to go home!  I want to go home NOW!”

The show had barely even started.

I managed to persuade her to stay in her seat and give it a chance.  She started chomping on her sweets and, by the time the mouse scampered on stage, she had quietened down.

So, what was the show like?
Well, if you went along thinking it would be a straight adaptation of the book, you would be probably be disappointed.  As well as the original rhyming story, there are songs, dancing and a bit of audience participation.

If you thought the play would involve actors dressed up as cute, furry, woodland creatures, you definitely would be disappointed.

Sophia and the Mouse
Sophia and the mouse

The characters were all interpretations of the creatures (apart from the mouse which was very mouse-like); the fox was a country gent (sort of); the owl was an RAF officer; the snake was...well, for me he was the highlight of the show.  A maraca-swinging, moustache-toting, sequined jacket-wearing, Mexican-wannabe delight!  The adults in the audience certainly enjoyed his part, as did Sophia who was up and dancing in the aisle while the snake sang and shimmied along to his song.

Then of course came the main man – sorry, animal – himself: The Gruffalo!

“He has terrible tusks” – check (although they were more like horns because they were on top of his head).
“And terrible claws” – check.
“And terrible teeth in his terrible jaws” – I wouldn’t wish to comment considering they belonged to the actor!

“He had knobbly knees” – check.
“And turned out toes” – check.
“And a poisonous wart on the end of his nose” – check (although it was on the side of his nose and I only noticed it when we met him afterwards).

“His eyes are orange” – err, no they weren’t.
“His tongue is black” – again, no.
“He has purple prickles all over his back” – check, check and check!

“Oh help!  Oh no!  It’s a Gruffalo!”

Sophia with the Gruffalo
Sophia and the Gruffalo

Unfortunately, we didn’t see the rest of the show.  Sophia decided once more that she didn’t like sitting in the dark so I scooped up our jackets and bags and we went and sat in the foyer for a few minutes.  I think she appreciated the break but, by the time, we sneaked back to our seats, the mouse had already found her nut.  We were told the nut was good and that was that.

Our verdict?
As I've already said, if you go along to this thinking it'll be just like the book or cartoon, you run the risk of coming away from it disappointed.  However, I thought it was a good show.  There were moments of audience participation and everyone enthusiastically shouted out the words to the story along with the cast, who didn’t seem to mind.

Sophia with Fox
Sophia and the fox

There was singing and dancing and I would recommend getting an aisle seat so your child can get out and dance along.  It contains some references for adults (such as the dambuster music when the owl is flying) and everyone in the audience generally seemed to enjoy themselves.

Sophia didn't question why the owl didn't have wings or why the snake had legs (and a very snazzy jacket) but I can imagine that some young die-hard fans of the book may raise this as an issue.  My main criticism of the show is that there wasn’t an intermission halfway through.  An hour is quite a long time for little ones to sit still for and a break would have helped Sophia enormously; we certainly wouldn't have missed the last part of the show.

Also – and this is a little niggle – if you’re going to sell flags, please, please make sure you have the sticks to go with them.  It’s disappointing for the child if they can’t wave it around during the performance or on the train on the way home.

Please note: I did not receive any free tickets in order to review this show. I bought them myself, although Southend Palace Theatre and Tall Stories (the production company) allowed us to meet the Gruffalo and his friends after the show.


  1. Great review.  I did try to see the show in London over Christmas.  Have to say, I have seen a few with different character interpretations and wouldn's rush back.  My personal preference would be to see the 'big cuddly creatures'.  Thanks, I really enjoyed reading this.

  2. Very fair! Also the added bonus of seeing the cast afterward must have been amazing. We were up in the circle so you could not see all the Gruffalo features from there. I think it would have been better for Noah to have seen it at 6 or 7 and then he could have handled the interpretation, but then he is a die hard fan! I was disappointed for him, because it wasn't what he expected. So glad you enjoyed it though, even if you didn't get to see all of it! x

  3. Mine to! My little boy expected a fox, a snake and an owl! But it is all experience and he loved the theatre and he concentrated so their are plus points to everything! :)

  4. I loved your review thank you for that, The gruffalo has always been a fav in our house, but my youngest is probably too young to go yet being only two I can imagine the experience would probably be to huge for him!!!!!

  5. I just wanted to say well done on been shortlisted in the Fresh Voices category in the BIBs. Your blog is absolutely wonderful. I very nearly took my daughter to a production of the Gruffalo some years ago but when I heard it wasn't straight from the book I decided against it. Great review though :)

  6. I totally know what you mean. Sophia and I had been reading and talking about the Gruffalo during the week before we went to see the show. She enjoys the book but it's not her favourite.  She seemed happy for me to tell her which animals they were when they appeared and didn't question it. But, I can definitely see how children who LOVE the book may not understand the interpretations. Have to say though, I did enjoy some of the references that were put in for adults

  7. They do say it's for children aged three and up. The show is for about an hour (without an intermission) so if your child can still for that long, then that's the hardest part dealt with!

  8. There is something about big, cuddly, furry characters that are so much fun. I was lucky that Sophia didn't question who the characters were. If she hadn't liked them, we would have had to leave much earlier!


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