What better way to celebrate your youngest child’s 2nd birthday than to take her to see her first play. It was the story of a man who endures numerous abductions from a variety of different characters, reaches the point where he loses all hope of seeing his family again and then through assisting a man who is breaking into a house, is finally reunited with his wife and kids. Of course, this is no ordinary man. It is Stick Man.
If you haven’t read the book (and are worried about the kind of literature that I am exposing my children too) it is the Julia Donaldson story where Stick Man leaves his wife and stick children to go on a jog when he is mistaken for a stick by a dog and from here goes on a journey against his will, eventually ending up on a fireplace at Christmas. Stick Man then encounters a “stuck man” up the chimney, which is Santa. Stick Man helps Santa deliver his presents and then is returned back to his family tree, with his “Stick Lady love and their stick children three”.
The girls love the book. It has a great story, which rhymes and has repeated lines. I also love reading it. Stick Man has a French accent when I read it because I cannot read the line “I’m not a mast for a silly old flag” in any other accent. So when I saw that Scamp Theatre’s production of Stick Man was on at Swindon’s Wyvern Theatre I had to take the girls.
The production has just three cast members and with the help of various puppets and props take on all the characters in the book. The cast were excellent – very enthusiastic and able to hold a potentially tricky audience’s attention for the 55 minute length of the show. The different scenes were cleverly portrayed using a simple set, props and costumes. We loved the hand puppet swan who weaves Stick Man into her nest and clever blue lighting and silvery paper fishes on poles as Stick Man is washed out into the sea.
The show also has some songs (including a particularly catchy number which has become a bit of an earworm and I cannot get out of my head), music, dancing, jokes and audience participation. At times there is a panto feel to the show – the audience being encouraged to shout “She’s behind you” as the dog chasing Stick Man runs into the audience and hides. Of course the show also features Santa, which makes it feel a bit Christmassy and he shouts out to the children that he will see them in 6 months time. I think the beach scenes with rubber rings, sandcastle building and a ball game involving the audience balance out the seasonal feel of the play and I don’t think any of us felt that this would be a better play to see in November/December time.
This was the girl’s first trip to the theatre and they weren’t sure what to expect. I was really impressed with Wyvern Theatre hiring out booster seats for 50p each which meant that we didn’t need to worry about whether the girls were going to be able to see the stage or not. We treated them to a tub of ice cream each (well, it has to be done AND it was Emily’s birthday) to help settle them down at the start – there is no interval in the production which is a big help when you have young children!
Emily hadn’t finished her ice cream when the show started and I can honestly say I have never seen her eat ice cream so slowly. From the moment the play started she was transfixed, all thoughts of her ice cream gone. I wish I could have taken a photo to capture the look of enchantment on her face as the lights went down and the play started, or the huge smile on her face when she saw Stick Man. My heart melted when she waved at Stick Man and Santa. She was a little unsure when the cast came into the audience and grabbed hold of my arm, but continued to be transfixed by the action. When she clapped along with the rest of the audience at the end of the show I knew that this had been the perfect birthday treat for her.
Obviously Stick Man is a show for kids but I actually enjoyed it too as I was amazed by how they were able to bring the story to life with such minimal scenery and props. Although it does follow the book, there are a few deviations and alterations in order to make it into a more suitable stage production. I would say the only real downside for me is that as a reader of the story even my comedy accents are unable to compete with such a great performance.
All-in-all Stick Man is a perfect introduction to the theatre for children. Although it was aimed at children aged 3 and above it kept my little 2 year old entertained for the full 55 minutes, and I should add that this was a 2 year old who had refused to nap so this was no mean feat! I would definitely take the girls to the theatre again and would happily take them to see Stick Man again – even if it means getting that song stuck in my head again….
You can find details of the tour dates for Stick Man here.
Disclaimer: we were sent tickets for the four of us to see the show in exchange for an honest review