The Smeds and the Smoos, Tall Stories, 2023
Photo: Tall Stories
  • Theatre, Children's
  • Pleasance Courtyard
  • Recommended


The Smeds and The Smoos

3 out of 5 stars

Solid stage version of Julia Donaldson's beloved kids’ book about bickering aliens

Andrzej Lukowski

Time Out says

This review is from London, July 2023. ‘The Smeds and the Smoos’ transfers to the 2024 Edinburgh Fringe.

Kids’ theatre company Tall Stories has been touring its stage version of ‘The Gruffalo’ for over 20 years now – it’s almost the same age as Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s iconic picture book.

Though the company has dipped its toes in other waters, there’s no denying that it has found a niche: the other shows in its current repertoire are a version of ‘Gruffalo’ sequel ‘The Gruffalo’s Child’ (returning to the West End this Christmas!), plus Donaldson and Scheffler’s much-loved ‘The Snail and the Whale’ and ‘The Smeds and the Smoos’.

Directed by Toby Mitchell, latest show ‘The Smeds…’ has been knocking around in touring form for a year or so but finally makes its West End debut this summer. And it’s very charming, in a predictable way. Tall Stories is ruthlessly efficient at the whole ‘take a bedtime story that you can read in five minutes and stretch it to an hour’ thing. An opening reference to ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is a hoot, there are some nice songs from John Fiber and Andy Shaw, and Barney George’s sets and Yvonne Stone’s puppets do a decent job of channelling Scheffler’s eccentric, cuddly vision of space, as feuding tribes of aliens – the red Smeds and the blue Smoos – set out on a galactic odyssey to find their youngsters Bill and Janet, who have eloped together. 

Though it can’t really compete in visual pizazz with the BBC’s recent animated version, it is pretty much a faultless exercise in modestly budgeted kids’ stage adaptation. Personally, I can’t help but wish Tall Stories demonstrated a bit more audacity: their take is very much What You Expect, and the Kubrick gag at the start is basically as off-piste as it gets. But it absolutely does the trick: kids who love the book will surely love the play, and if you were already considering taking your little ones to ‘The Smeds and the Smoos’, you absolutely should.


Pleasance Courtyard
Rail: Edinburgh Waverley
£14-£15, £13-£14 concs, Runs 1hr

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