A sneak peak at the latest Tall Stories production? Yes Please! We headed down to Blackheath Halls to bring you this ‘The Smeds and The Smoos Theatre Review’. All images courtesy of Mark Senior
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West End Bound
It’s going to be quite the year for Julia Donaldson’s 2019 picture book The Smeds and the Smoos. Back in December we were treated to a premiere BBC TV animation (narrated by Rob Brydon) on Christmas Day. And now the story is set to be the highlight of our Summer holidays too as Tall stories’ heartwarming theatre adaptation of the award-winning book makes its way to the Lyric Theatre , Shaftesbury Avenue this July.
What is ‘The Smeds and The Smoos’ about?
This is all great news for fans of the alien star-crossed lovers and this tale of love conquering all. The story takes place on a weird and wonderful far-off planet inhabited by the two strange alien species of the humplety hill and loobular lake. This intergalactic Romeo and Juliet story sees Janet a young Smed (conveniently rhymes with red)) and Bill a young smoo (..you guessed it)) fall in love. This love match arises amidst the disapproval of their warring families who insist that Smeds and Smoos must not mix.
Consumed with blind hate and unable to to see past their differences (the colour odf their skin, the food they eat) Grandfather Smed and Grandmother Smoo, the heads of the rival groups of aliens, unwittingly push the couple to run away in search of a planet to make their home.
In a desperate year long search of the galaxy the families are forced to work together united in their common plight. When they finally find Janet and Bill they are so overcome by love for their new baby that all is forgiven and their historical prejudices forgotten.
A Tall Stories Production
Before we had even taken our seats my eldest took one look at the set and siad to me ‘ooh mummy this is going to be good’.
Tall stories do not hold back when it comes to set design and have recreated Axel Scheffler’s quirkily colourful moonscape to perfection. There is no minimal approach to set here, like many of the Julia Donaldson adaptations we have seen, the show looks and feels like the picture book, which immediately draws the audience in.
This latest production is performed by a cast of four, interchanging between characters and narrators, allowing for lots of audience interaction. Little ones will delight in the familiar call and response ” he’s behind you!” and invitations to sing and dance along to the many infectious musical numbers. The hugely likable Janet and Bill embody all the energy of youthfulness and children will also gleefully relate to their rebellious natures.
The bulk of the show is centred on the interplanetary adventures and the strange alien life that the Smeds and the Smoos encounter whilst searching for the eloped lovers. My boys were thrilled by the Vums of Planet Vumjum with their gangly green arms and the slime monsters of Planet Glurch. There were also squeels of delight when the rocket touches down on planet Grimbletosh whose residents bear an uncanny resemblance to the universally infamous ‘Gruffalo’. Kudos to Barney George for creating a visual feast of a show, without being overwhelming.
The children also loved the big reveal of Janet and Bills ‘purple baby’ at the end. The show opens with the cry of this baby, unseen in its crib and the futile attempts of the narrators to soothe it. Despite being a constant on stage and having already read the story, my boys remained wide eyed with surprise. Whatever you think of the unsubtle metaphors in The Smeds and The Smoos, the simplistic messaging seems to strike a chord with its young audience. ‘Red plus blue makes purple mummy!’ Nonetheless themes of tolerance and forgiveness provide great fodder for the train journey home.
What age is it aimed at?
Tall stories, the production company behind this beautiful adaptation, have certainly hit the spot with their target age audience of 3+. Between the aliens, space travel, rockets and slime there was little room for this show to be anything but a huge hit. My boys of 7, 5 and 4 were all enthralled. If you are sitting in the stalls you may well get drenched by water pistols at one point. This show certainly pulls out all the stops.
If you are looking for an engaging West End show for the whole family (that also wont break the bank) I fully recommend booking to catch this box office hit at The Lyric Shaftesbury avenue where it will run from 20th July to 3rd September.
Felicia Akin-Tayo – Janet
Tom Capper Grandfather Smed
Robert Penny – Bill
Andrea Sadler – Grandmother Smoo
Grace Liston – Understudy / Ass. Stage Manager
Director – Toby Mitchell
Designer – Barney George
Lighting Design – Peter Harrison
Puppet Design – Yvonne Stone
Music and Lyrics – Jon Fiber and Andy Shaw
Choreography – Julia Cave
Want to see more Julia Donaldson Shows in London? This is for you!