Theatre review: The Boy Who Cried Wolf, Bristol Old Vic
Directed by Sally Cookson
Friday 19 July 2013
Think you know Aesop’s fables? Think again. Sally Cookson’s production of the famous tales presents a happy-camper tortoise opposite a onesie-sporting hare, a grumpy teenage boy who cries wolf and a rock ‘n’ roll crooner as the sun.
Bristol Old Vic’s outdoor summer show is a consummate piece of storytelling theatre which brings Aesop’s ancient fables – as told through the pen of Michael Morpurgo – to vivid life.
A five-strong cast tells stories familiar and obscure, from The Hare and the Tortoise to Belling the Cat, with the title fable split into three episodes and scattered through the evening. The cast wanders onto Phil Eddolls’s verdant set (constructed from scaffolding immediately in front of the Old Vic itself) like travelling players, each of them loaded with a sack of props.
Chris Bianchi, Lucy Tuck and Tom Wainwright take the lion’s (wolf’s?) share of the acting while Will and Benji Bower provide the live music – an aspect which has become something of a trademark of Cookson’s productions.
Benji Bower’s lively songs are the perfect match for Cookson’s style which picks out humour in details other directors might overlook. Who else could create a sparklingly funny scene from a character eating a sandwich? While the tortoise (an adorable Lucy Tuck) ponderously pulls lettuce from between slices of bread, the audience can’t take their eyes away.
The goose that lays the golden eggs, in another of the evening’s episodes, is a puppet created from wooden spoons, washing up gloves and a feather duster, and imaginatively operated by Tom Wainwright. It’s Wainwright, in fact, who takes the title role and entertains the crowd by actually inviting them – surely a rare occurrence – to throw things at him.
Chris Bianchi, meanwhile, plays the blues crooning sun in The Sun and the Wind, but it’s as the seemingly inexhaustible hare that he brings the house down – or would do if we were in one. Dressed in a grey onesie with bunny ears he darts around the set yelling "chop, chop", "wang, wang" and "pow, pow" at everything. There were, I suspect, more than a few knowing laughs from parents of toddlers in the audience.
If there are scenes which lose momentum, the production moves on to the next tale before there’s a chance to fidget. This is a tightly wrought piece of storytelling that revels in the essentials of the art – likeable characters, a good plot and a strong punchline – things Aesop himself would have recognised.
Threat of 'catastrophic cascade of collisions' must be averted, warn scientists
Arts & Ents blogs
Cheryl Cole to return as an X Factor judge in £1.5m deal
What are the best first lines in fiction?
Russell Crowe's Noah banned in three Arab countries before worldwide premiere
Sharknado 2: Former WWE wrestler Kurt Angle to fight second wave of flying sharks
Call The Midwife: Jessica Raine leaves in series three finale
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
- 1 Australian man Rod Sommerville reacts to bite from deadly snake by reaching for cold beer
- 2 Pakistan vs Paul Smith: Sandal-wearers bemused by famed British designer's attempts to sell traditional Peshawari chappal-style shoes for the distinctly untraditional sum of £300
- 3 North Korea elections: Kim Jong-un wins 100% of the vote
- 4 Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
- 5 Sharknado 2: Former WWE wrestler Kurt Angle to fight second wave of flying sharks