‘The Slightly Annoying Elephant’ review

Theatre, Children's
3 out of 5 stars
‘The Slightly Annoying Elephant’ review

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

A big blue elephant puppet enlivens this David Walliams adaptation for ages three-to-eight

Non-parents may only be dimly aware of this fact, but David Walliams’s success with ‘Little Britain’, ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ et al is basically peanuts compared to his exploits as a children’s author – his Roald Dahl-ish yarns have made him the biggest selling kids’ writer in the country. That means theatre adaptations are now coming thick and fast, with the RSC’s imminent musical version of ‘The Boy in the Dress’ – featuring songs by one Robbie Williams – almost certainly West End-bound after its tryout in Stratford this Christmas.

Lower-key is this puppet-driven stage version of a 2013 picture book, from adaptor-director Samantha Lane. What ‘The Slightly Annoying Elephant’ has going for it: a whacking great blue elephant puppet, designed by Maia Kirkman-Richards and deftly operated by Elaine Hartley. The towering pachyderm turns up at the home of a young boy (Heidi Goldsmith), who signed up to adopt an elephant at the zoo without realising that he had really adopted an elephant. It duly turns up and starts making a nuisance of itself, with endless needy demands and a suitcase ominously full of ‘active wear’.

It’s a nice production and there are some lovely songs (by Tom Gray), but at the end of the day I’m not sure about the story itself. It mines a lot of similar themes to Ross Collins’s much more inventive 2006 picturebook ‘The Elephantom’ – a bedtime favourite at chez Lukowski, and adapted by the NT a couple of years back. This feels a bit wan by comparison, especially the relatively dark ending, which seems intended as a masterstroke of Dahl-ish humour, but is glaringly signposted about halfway through the show. It’s easy to be sniffy about Walliams, but he’s done better stuff than this. However, his book is an excellent excuse for a massive elephant puppet, and for that we should be grateful.


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