Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Walliams adaptation stayed just the right side of panto

SO, I will admit straight out that I have never read one of David Walliams’s books

SO, I will admit straight out that I have never read one of David Walliams’s books — although as he has sold more than 12.5 million copies I am sure he hasn’t missed me.

But after seeing this show, I will proudly be joining his readership.

Anyone that can perfectly blend heartfelt moments and the tough realities of life with toilet humour and daftness deserves some serious praise.

Ratburger, Walliams’s fifth book, follows 12-year-old Zoe as she battles an evil stepmother, a school bully, an absentee father and the menacing Burt who wants to make her pet rat into a burger.

The story teaches children to never give up, to stand up for what they believe in and follow their dreams — like all good children’s books should. And as I sat in the sunshine by the river in Caversham, I was inspired to do just that.

The production was put together and performed exceptionally well. I loved that the actors were selling ice creams and programmes fully in character.

There was audience participation, slapstick moments, cringey moments — but everything stayed just the right side of pantomime. This play could have easily been overdone, but it was executed just right by Heartbreak Productions.

The show was interspersed with a variety of styles of music — from modern pop numbers to jazz hands, high-kick belters.

They were all well performed but I felt maybe it was missing that one catchy singalong stuck-in-your-head number.

The composer Derry Pope is very skilled, though, and the songs were clever and very enjoyable to watch.

All the performers had strong voices — and special mention must go to Georgina Scott, whose version of I Will Always Love You was fantastic. Purposefully bad singing is harder than it looks/sounds to pull off.

It was clever to get a Britain’s Got Talent reference in too. David Walliams actually attended this production with his nephew and the cast were obviously delighted to see him enjoying the show.

There is something captivating about watching children’s theatre surrounded by mesmerised and giggling children. And it is so wonderful to see children enjoying live theatre.

It must have been a proud moment for the writer. Having your border terrier, Bert, seduce the reviewer was a clever move too — he was a real cutie.

I look forward to seeing another production by the Heartbreak team and I hope my little one grows up inspired by Walliams’s books.

Although I’m not sure where I’m going to find a breakdancing rat from if he becomes a superfan!

Review: Daisy Smith

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