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The Scarecrows’ Wedding (Susan Elkin reviews)

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The Scarecrows’ Wedding
Based on the book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, and produced by Scamp Theatre
society/company: West End & Fringe (directory)
performance date: 15 Jul 2016
venue: LEICESTER SQUARE THEATRE, 6 Leicester Place, London WC2H 7BX
Three accomplished actor musicians perform this miniature musical accompanying themselves on violin, guitar, banjo saxophone and various percussion instruments. The songs (music by Darren Clark) are suitably retro-folksy for a piece for very young children set in idyllic countryside with gentle harmonies and some attractive basic counterpoint. The word which comes to mind is “charm”. Whole tractor-loads of it.Based on a book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, the partnership which created The Gruffalo, The Scarecrows’ Wedding is basically a quest story. Two scarecrows are in love and planning their wedding. So they make a list of what they need and set out to find feathers for the dress, bells to ring at the ceremony, a necklace, flowers and so on. And of course they succeed, despite the attempt of another scarecrow to make eyes at Betty, the bride-to-be (Lucy Wells). So like all the best fiction it ends with a wedding.

Wells flops her head and pivots her arms convincingly and beneath her traditional straw head she is pretty, coy and perky with very warm expressive eyes. Matthew Hamper as her beau is boyish and solemn except when his face engagingly lights up with love for Betty. All the other parts are played by the impressively talented Michael Palmer whose gift for accents takes us from, among other things, an officious lugubrious cow, a militarist toad bouncing on a big green balloon to a predatory, rakish moustache-twirling Frenchman. He also acts in a neutral voice, as narrator.

James Button’s set is spot on too. It includes a tatty armchair which turns into a car an angular green slope, a ladder, a toy dog on wheels which morphs into a puppet and lot of stands for all those musical instruments.

Oh yes, you can’t help but smile with delight at this one. I just hope that audience numbers pick up once the school holidays start. There were barely 20 people in the 400 seat venue at the performance I attended.

Originally published by Sardines

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Susan Elkin
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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