Friday, 20 July 2018

REVIEW: Mr Stink at Chickenshed theatre, Southgate

Can there be a more inclusive, more inspiring and more welcoming place than the Chickenshed theatre in north London which seeks to use theatre to change lives. From the moment you arrive the welcoming front of house staff , excellent cafe and lively Foyer atmosphere start to deliver on its ethos and create the environment to encourage diversity, families and the whole community to engage with their work.

Their latest offering is a perfect fit for their philosophy. Mr Stink is a well spoken but smelly vagabond, he does not like to be called a tramp, who is secretly adopted by a twelve year old girl and accommodated in the garden shed. It is based on David Walliams book of the same name and he was on hand to endorse the production and personally greet every child in the audience on the opening night . It has the feel of The Twits combined with Mary Poppins , as it explores the impact he has on the local community he is camping out in. It is a book and play aimed firmly at a young audience but also charms the parents and grandparents in the audience who will recognise the family tensions created by parents ambition and careers. It reflects strongly on inclusivity as Mr Stink can't be judged on how he looks or smells but on how he thinks , cares and influences those he meets. 

The show is cast from the staff, students and graduates of the Chickenshed youth theatre, BTEC and foundation degree. Mr Stink is played by Bradley Davis from the Education support team, he is a towering presence and easily communicates that despite his appearance he has a kind and friendly soul with a guilty secret . On opening night Chloe , the young girl who adopts him was played by Lucy-Mae Beacock who has previously played Matilda in the West End. Her confident performance and singing was enchanting as she effectively told the story and her natural ease and chemistry with Stink was wonderful. 

Her mother Mrs Crumb, pronounced Croomm, is played by Belinda McGuirk as aloof and detached from her family and her political ambition has hints of Mrs Thatcher. Her husband played by another staff member Ashley Driver is too frightened to tell her he has lost his job, but has a much better relationship with his youngest daughter Chloe. The turning point in their relationship comes during a video insert of Politics Today hosted by Jeremy Vine .

The music is written especially for the show by Dave Carey with lyrics by Lou Stein , the artistic director and adapter of the book. It is light, frivolous and fun and sung mainly by a chorus of 12. I particularly enjoyed the Sausage song with one of the young chorus delightfully and passionately singing about the "sausage sizzling in the succulent fat" and "mushrooms are your best friend"! Occasionally the sound levels don't quite work and we lost some words of dialogue but overall everybody speaks , sings and dances with enjoyment and confidence.

The set and costumes by Keith Dunne are wonderfully cartoonish in pastel
colours and stylised shapes with a two story house centre stage showing Chloe 's bedroom upstairs and the kitchen diner downstairs. When we meet Raj ,a local shopkeeper and a Starbucks barista they wear their counters around themselves on shoulder straps . The actors dressed as Duchess the dog and Elizabeth the cat have excellent costumes and gleefully create animal personas.

The young audience responded with great enthusiasm to David Walliams , his books and the show. The message in the story, and the casting, to treat everyone equally perfectly fits with the companies ethos as we are reminded to respond to who they are and how they behave and not on how they look, sound or smell. Touching and joyous storytelling.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls row H | Price of the ticket: £15
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