The Stick Man

"Unexpectedly festive"

Freckle Productions present a humorous, fast paced adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's childrens book after their success with their previous show 'Zog'.

Our protagonist is the anthropomorphic 'Stick Man' (played by Jonathan Cobb) who heads off on a challenging adventure to return home after he is separated from his family. Unbeknownst to us, he is working against the clock to make it back in time for Christmas!

The 3 strong cast, featuring Charlotte Gascoyne, was unfortunately a little lacklustre and it felt as though they tried to compensate for this by being far more dramatic than necessary. Alongside their fantastic vocal projection and almost pantomimic expressions, there was a lot of shouting on stage, and also a lot of encouragement for the audience to do the same at times. This made for an overwhelming environment where the focus was more on the participants than actors - a particular shame during the few great moments of physical theatre. 

This was a regularly occuring genre of performance throughout, however it sometimes felt under-rehearsed or clunky. It seemed as though they were also in charge of their own costume, props, and instruments which may have contributed to what became quite a distracting element of the show.

The stand out performance was given by Patrick Orkney whose delivery was the least infantilising to the young people watching, and he served as a live musician as well as puppeteer. 

These puppets were beautifully designed by Katie Sykes, however I feel were not given the spotlight they deserved as they were always accompanied by archetypal sound effects. It is clear that the intention for this was to further signify what the puppets were however, in my opinion, if you are reliant on these additions to ensure the audience know what your material signifies, this choice should probably be reconsidered. 

Mark Kane's direction causes chaos on stage, in both positive and negative respects. Partially, it is great fun to watch as the actors lose themselves in their multiple roles, and often run around the space in order to keep these characters moving at the right speed. On the other hand, it sometimes felt as though things had been added just for the sake of it, without a purpose. Obviously not all theatre needs to be used to educate or inspire, however I feel that children's theatre specifically should always aim to incorporate at least one of these intentions into a piece. Watching as an adult, I was unsure of both what I should be taking from it, or expecting my little one to learn. 

The use of music composed by Benji Bower and directed by Brian Hargreaves was one of the best decisions made, as every song was upbeat, clear, and easy to dance along to in your seat. These should have been further utilised as moments of energy and excitement so that stillness and attention was better managed during scenes solely of dialogue. 

Elanor Higgins' lighting design was simplistic and effective, incorporating projection and even a sparkly surprise into some sections! 

Running until the 2nd January 2024 in London, this is a good option for some families' holiday outing, but may be a little too raucous for others.

Full details, including tour dates here: Stick Man Live Tour

Review written by Katie Anna McConnell

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Photo credit: Mark Senior (previous cast

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