Dr Seuss’s The Lorax at the Old VicCultureTheatre
How lucky are we that unlike the bitter “Onceler” at the heart of this tale we can enjoy the return of The Lorax. Returning from a phenomenally successful run in 2015, this magical piece of theatre is back and perhaps even more urgent than it was before.
The Lorax at the Old Vic is quite simply a beautiful story, imaginatively told. A parable for our time, its hard to believe it was written by Dr Seuss almost four decades ago in 1971. Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is simply a show for children – no matter your age the themes are complex, the verse lyrical and the puppets enchanting.
Adapted for the stage by David Grieg, this joyful script – entirely in verse – swings as gleefully as the Lorax himself from impish limericks to delivering a brief history of capitalism using only one phrase: “biggering”. The musical score by Charlie Fink, frontman of Noah and the Whale, is similarly adroit. Fink uses music to establish settings within the play. Acoustic folksier songs illustrate the forests, while the Onceler’s industrialisation mission has all the frantic jazz band stylings of 1930s Broadway razzlers.
The entire cast are captivating physical performers and spoil the audience with so many fantastic characters that it is impossible to pluck a favourite. The incredible voice of Wendy Mae Brown in the ensemble gives the musical numbers a rich and commanding brassiness. The immense care and meticulous detail displayed by the puppeteers who command the Lorax himself breathe life into the creature, and make him all the more beguiling.
Simon Paisley Day, who is the focal point for so much of the action as the Onceler, is a fabulous lurid green re-imagination of the great industrialiser. Portraying the mutation from innocuous greed to pure evil is a totally physical transformation, and this performer is captivating.
The storytelling in The Lorax is extraordinary. Fantastical birds fly over the heads of the audience, as paradise is conjured from beneath the boards of the stage. When tricks are performed on stage, a wave of tiny heads crest in the stalls to get a closer look at the wizardry ahead.
This is a poignant parable that doesn’t patronise. Everything about it is affecting and infectious: spectators will be challenged to leave the theatre without speaking in rhyme. Somehow, the production balances joyful and tragic – go see The Lorax, its pure theatre magic.
Photo: Manuel Harlan
Dr Seuss’s The Lorax is at the Old Vic from 15th October until 5th November 2017. Book your tickets here.