Sunday, 30 July 2017

REVIEW: The Hunting of the Snark at the Vaudeville Theatre

Wow, when did we all become so polite? Going to plays for “adults” on a regular basis means that I unfortunately become annoyed if a fellow theatre goer is chatting during a play or perhaps sniffling. What I noticed this week is that if you are attending a family play, those rules disappear! I love how during The Hunting of the Snark, a play for the whole family currently playing at London’s Vaudeville Theatre before going on a national tour, the atmosphere is completely relaxed and people of all ages are having fun, responding, singing along, playing with the actors and eating! New note to self: don’t take theatre going so seriously!

The musical play, written by Annabel Wigoder and directed by Gemma Colclough, is based on the “nonsense” classic poem by Lewis Carroll. It tells of a diverse group of people - the Banker, the Boy, the Butcher, the Baker, the Bellman and the knitting Beaver - who sail off to the mythical Snark Island to find the mysterious Snark – is it an animal? A monster? The crew definitely want to find out! Our hero, the Boy, even hid on the boat against his father the Banker’s orders to know the truth!

Despite a dangerous storm, the crew finally arrives on the island. The island is a place where animals are colourful and all is permitted, especially being silly, and money is seen as useless paper. What we quickly learn is that the ship captain has lost his memory and thinks he is a Baker, so it seems they are stuck! Through determination and the embracing of each other’s uniqueness, they take a journey of self-discovery on their quest for the Snark.

I was impressed with the multi-rolling in this show, with Will Bryant for example playing the Baker as well as the dangerous thief Bandersnatch. Polly Smith was excellent as the teacher, the butcher and many more in between. As the butcher, she completely transformed into a rat-like predator and reminded me of Sweeney Todd. All the actors’ switches in physicality were remarkable and certainly magical for the children in the audience. 

Simon Turner was just obnoxious enough as the banker at the beginning of the show, and I enjoyed seeing him evolve once he was on the island, after losing his trousers and fearing for his son’s life. Jordan Leigh-Harris as the Boy showed a lot of energy and enthusiasm and never gave up in the face of adversity. 

Perhaps my issue with the casting was that it was not diverse enough in terms of ethnicity, as it seems to have been in earlier versions of the production. 

Wigoder’s writing included contemporary references, such as the media, smart phones (highlighted in the opening song “Breaking news”) and ITV. This made this classic story take on modern forms and ensured it was in touch with today’s audiences.

The stage design by Justin Nardella, made up of the ship’s sails and exotic colourful plants, helped the cast surprise us when entering and exiting and contributed to the island’s mysteries. 

With catchy music and lyrics by Gareth Cooper, high-energy actors and the theme of perseverance and solidarity running through the show, this is sure to please the whole family.

Review by Sophie Tergeist 

Rating: ★★★★

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