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Saturday, 30 October 2021

REVIEW: The Magician’s Elephant at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-Upon-Avon

The RSC return to their indoor home at Stratford upon Avon with another Children’s show (6+) for the Christmas period hoping to catch the family market as an alternative to Pantomime and produce the next Matilda. You can see the money lavished on this world premiere of a new musical turning Kate Di Camillo’s book into a full-blown production but at two and half hours running time it needs to be good to hold our attention and in reality, would benefit from a heavy pruning of music and business to come in under two hours.

The story seems to borrow from other Children’s stories to create a tale of an orphaned boy and orphaned girl brought together by an Elephant. Peter, we meet above a staircase with his guardian, Vilna (with echoes of Harry Potter under the stairs with the Dursley’s) until he is inspired to search for the truth about himself. Adele, we meet in an orphanage with the Sister until she too sets out in search of dreams (shades of Annie and Miss Hannigan). Their efforts are thwarted by the Countess Quintet (with heavy Cruella De Ville overtones with hatred of children replacing dalmatians) who want to control access to the Elephant that has mysteriously arrived in Baltese (you can’t help but compare that to Joey in War Horse). To cover up the thin elongated plot plenty of comic business is introduced with a Keystone Cop Chief (overplaying the part like Ernie Wise in a play what he wrote) and a playfully downtrodden Count “who does not count”.
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