‘The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse’ review

Theatre, Children's
4 out of 5 stars
The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse, 2019
Photograph: Robert Day Samuel Buttery and Varun Raj

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Extremely amusing stage adaptation of Jon Klassen and Mac Barnett’s subversive children’s story

Jon Klassen is in a class of his own when it comes to kids’ books: his wry drawing and subversive, irony-steeped yarns almost certainly have a greater appeal to parents than children. A few years back the National Theatre adapted his most famous work, ‘I Want My Hat Back’, a blackly comic picture book about a dim-witted bear exacting murderous vengeance on a rabbit who nicked his hat. And now the Unicorn takes on ’The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse’. An illustrated storybook for slightly older kids, written with Mac Barnett, it’s not as well known as Klassen’s headwear-based opus. But with a bit more meat to it storywise, it’s easier to stage without the need to bulk out with songs etcetera.

Jack McNamara does the adapting and directing for this Unicorn Theatre production for ages three to seven and it’s extremely delightful stuff: the story of a hungry, guitar-playing wolf who attempts to sate her appetite by gobbling up a mouse. Rather than dying, the rodent is surprised to discover that there’s an incredibly pretentious duck living in the beast’s intestines, and after some initial friction the two strike up a friendship and resolve to live inside the wolf’s cosy innards forever. But then a pair of hunters threaten the inept wolf and her lodgers decide they’d better take matters into their own hands.

It’s a delightfully bizarre, deadpan story, realised in McNamara’s production by a splendid cast. Sam Buttery steals every scene he’s in as the fruity, overbearing duck; Varun Raj is the bemused everymouse justifiably wondering what the heck is going on; Cath Whitefield is a charming picture of baffled innocence as the wolf (when I saw it she’d hurt her foot and the production had been restaged so she could sit down for the whole show, but it didn’t really impact upon things that I could tell).

Kids will dig the big, bright, silly characters; adults should too. Plus there’s the extra joy of its po-faced disassembly and reconstruction of fairy story tropes. Take the sprogs along, but you’re the one in for the bigger treat.


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