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Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book (Susan Elkin reviews)

Charlie Cook’s Favourite Book

3 stars

Little Angel Theatre

Co-produced by Little Angel Theatre and Lowry

Photo: Ellie Kurttz

This thoughtful musical adaptation of Julia Donaldson’s 2016 book is a homage to reading, stories and imaginative play. Inevitably most of its audience will be the converted who don’t need preaching to. I saw it with a reception class from a local school along with a handful of parents with their own children. What a pity we can’t drag everyone in the Department for Education in to see it not to mention the entire Cabinet – oh, and the Shadow Cabinet, while we’re about it.

Charlie (Pierre Hanson-Johnson) is a bookworm. His younger sister Izzy (Freya Stephenson) has decided reading is boring and is trying to drag him out of his chair to play. In the end he agrees to start with a story and with their sparky Mum (Georgie Samuels) they play a whole series of book-inspired, make believe games including pirates, ghosts, birds, bears, dragons and more. Puppets pop out of books and there’s a gorgeous full-sized crocodile who eats books and then pops apart so we can see all the titles inside him like a washing line. He also, almost literally, swallows an encyclopaedia.

Nearly all the puppetry is artfully devised from household goods – they row with soup ladles and a pair of blown-up rubber gloves become fish – and many of the “books” on the shelf have hidden mysteries within and that’s all part of the subliminal message.

Hanson-Johnson is playfully lithe and Stephenson gets wide-eyed child-like wonder and petulance perfectly. Samuels provides a contrast and convinces us she is old enough to be their mother and glad of a sit down and a snooze while her children play on. She has a striking, wide-ranging singing voice which comes out especially well when she’s puppeting an owl judging a birds’ nest competition.

Barb Jungr is, as always, very good at coming up with singable little melodies, usually based on simple triads which fit Donaldson’s words and/or the concepts in this play like jigsaw pieces.

This is, in short, a decent and worthwhile 55 minutes of colourful theatre for almost anyone under 8.

First published by Sardines:

Author information
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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