The Snail and the Whale, theatre review: 'Delightful, funny and imaginative'

St James Theatre, London

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The Independent Culture

A tiny snail longs to see the world and hitches a lift on the tail of a great big grey-blue humpback whale.

With its catchy, incantatory rhymes, the award-winning picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler is a favourite for reading aloud, but it's not immediately clear how you would adapt such a short piece for the stage.   

Tall Stories Theatre Company solve the problem with an imaginative framing device in their delightful, funny and touching fifty-minute show. This focuses on the bond between a sailor father (Patrick Bridgeman) who often has to be away at sea and his little daughter (Rhiannon Wallace) who, like the snail, longs to go with him. The two narratives beautifully complement and amplify each other. 

The actors are engagingly wacky and poignant in their doubled pairing and in their expert interaction with the deafeningly appreciative audience. The furniture in the girl's bedroom is wittily transformed into the whale (a grey winged armchair co-opted as the tail) and the haunting sea-shanty accompaniment and droll sound effects are provided on the viola by Ellen Chivers' beguiling narrator. 

It's production which, like the tale itself, lovingly celebrates the small and resourceful.

To January 5; 0844 264 2140