Stick Man at the Leicester Square
New children’s show Stick Man (for ages three plus) is the antidote to blaring loud, hyper children’s TV, proving that gentle, minimalist entertainment can captivate just as well. Based on the book by Julia Donaldson (author of The Gruffalo), Scamp Theatre’s charming play follows the plight of Stick Man, who leaves “his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three” for a jog one day, only to fall prey to the interests of a dog, a girl, a swan and a holidaying couple.
A good children’s show should be more than just a live TV programme. It should introduce kids to the form and prod them to contribute to the tale with their imaginations, rather than dictating immoveable events, places and characters. Stick Man is a soaring success in this respect, championing make-believe and echoing the way small children play. The minimal set and abstract movement leaves ample room for the gaps to be filled, so flattering and encouraging the mental powers of its young audience.
Theatrical elements are found aplenty: swirling white ribbons are icy winds, discs of paper and snow. As Stick Man plunges into the stream, blue lights and rushing sound transport us underwater. A roll of paper, taut between two of the actors, serves as a distant view of the river in which Stick Man bobs.
The story is told through a mixture of narration, acting and songs. Stick Man and family appear as life-size props, faithful incarnations of the book illustrations by Alex Scheffler. Richard Kiess manoeuvres Stick Man, while Cassie Vallance takes on the role of his Stick Lady Love and of the various unwelcome visitors who accost Stick Man on his outing. Music (everything from comical melodica to percussion to blues saxophone) is provided by Alex Tosh, who also contributes some side characters. Vallance and Tosh’s posh holiday-maker couple at the beach is a highlight, full of lighthearted caricature.
It’s an immersive and interactive experience, in which the audience gets to shout out and to try to catch a beach ball. Adults will appreciate a couple of the jokes, such as the ‘Stick-ipedia’ reference and jibes about the show’s budget.
Running until January, this wonderful production offers festive magic for the family, and sees Stick Man getting some help from a very special person just in time for Christmas.
Stick Man is on at Leicester Square Theatre until 4th January 2015, for further information or to book visit here.