‘The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussy-Cat’ review

Theatre, Children's
Recommended
4 out of 5 stars
The Further Adventures of the Owl and the Pussycat, 2019, Little Angel
Photograph: Ellie Kurttz

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Beautifully trippy stage version of Julia Donaldson’s Edward Lear sequel, for ages three-to-eight

It might seem hubristic to write a sequel to Edward Lear’s immortal 1871 nonsense poem ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’. But, frankly, ubiquitous queen of the picturebook Julia Donaldson is such a big deal that at this stage that she could write a new version of the Bible and it would probably seem fair enough.

Her 2013 book has yet to enter this hack’s household, but based upon this stage adaptation by Greta Clough it’s sweet and serviceable: Donaldson’s pneumatic ratatat rhymes aren’t so far away from Lear’s pithy nonsense verse, and she does a credible job of continuing the daffy adventures of the titular bird and feline. Now newlyweds, the wedding ring they quested for in the original poem is promptly nicked by a crow, prompting another odyssey, this time in a balloon.

It’s all extremely flimsy, but that’s actually a lot of the charm of Clough’s production. After a prologue in which elegantly-dressed performers Samuel Dutton and Cass Newby archly recite the original poem, the words are few and far between, just a line here and there between visually expansive scenes. Instead, Dutton and Newby’s knowing looks, Maia Kirkman-Richards’s whimsical puppets – which include multiple iterations of our heroes, so the journey can take place at wildly different scales – and Martin Thompson’s dreamy sound design do the heavy lifting for a spacious and trippy show that mostly eschews the songs that usually pad out this sort of affair. It trusts its own lush atmosphere, and it’s right to do so.

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