Coming home for Christmas with the family is a timeless theme all ages can relate to.
And in Julia Donaldson’s festive tale, the journey becomes an adventure for youngsters, with high stakes as Stick Man battles to make it back to his family tree.
The popular story was first a picture book, then an animated film, and has been adapted for the stage by the imaginative Scamp Theatre.
A cast of three actors bring the tale vibrantly to life with a mix of music, songs, comedy and puppetry. Axel Scheffler’s wide-eyed illustration has been recreated in puppet form, whose emotions take exaggerated human form in the flexible and funny, Mathew Hamper. He winces when chewed by a dog; pinches his nose when pecked by a swan; holds his breath with puffed cheeks when thrown into the river by a girl; and holds his head and shouts when used as a bat on the beach.
Lara Cowin who plays his ‘Stick Lady Love’ also takes on numerous other roles as a ninja-loving girl, a dog, a beach lover, a swan and Santa’s trusty reindeer, Rudolph. Each one she takes on with a range of rubber-faced expressions and the dynamic energy needed for a family show. Her dog chasing and beach-ball throwing antics bring the whole theatre into story and make for some ear-splitting audience interaction.
The multi-talented Robert Wade takes on a variety of roles as well as creating the music and sound effects for the show. He plays the ukulele, saxophone, and his energetic percussion playing is like a form of dance.
There is never a dull moment in this hour-long show. All the characters are larger-than-life, and sometimes camped-up in a jolly hockey sticks kind of way. Still the little ones don’t notice the actors’ tongue-in-cheek sending up of themselves. The youngsters are too busy following the story, finding the dog, leaping for the ball, singing, and of course shouting at the top of their lungs to wake-up and save Stick Man.
Thanks to his young friends in the audience, the adventure ends happily with a magical sleigh-ride, gifts from Father Christmas, a flurry of snow, and Stick Man safely home in the family tree.
★ ★ ★ ★
Read our interview with Lara Cowin.
Read our interview with Julia Donaldson.