The Snail and the Whale (4 stars)

Tall Stories' Donaldson adaption is once again imaginative and heartfelt

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This article is from 2012.

The Snail and the Whale

Tall Stories are no strangers to the inside of a Julia Donaldson picture book, having made their name on the children’s theatre circuit with The Gruffalo over ten years ago.

Since then, they’ve tackled The Gruffalo’s Child and Room on the Broom, and if The Snail and the Whale doesn’t quite live up to the show-stopping brilliance of the latter, it’s still an inventive and charming adaptation.

There isn’t a huge amount of text in Donaldson’s original to stretch out into a 50-minute show, so Tall Stories have explored the relationships that bring those books to life for children every night of the week across Britain.

A father, about to head off to sea, tries to encourage his little girl to go bed. She’s not interested, of course, and wants him to read their favourite book (no prizes for guessing what that is). There’s no time to finish it, but a few weeks later, a letter arrives from the father’s naval ship, containing a CD recording of the story (a situation based on the real-life ‘Storybook Soldiers’ initiative).

With father and daughter separated by miles, the recording reminds them both of fun they’ve had in previous times. The bedroom furniture becomes a large, grey humpback whale, a cuddly toy the snail, and the entire audience plays the part of the class of school children.

As we’ve come to expect from Tall Stories, this is a breed apart from the poo and wee gag kids shows you find on the Fringe, concentrating instead on imaginative storytelling and characterisation. If there’s one complaint, it’s the absence of catchy songs that usually dominate their shows, with just one woven into this production.

Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 26 Aug, 3pm, £8.50–£9.50 (£7.50–£8.50).

This article is from 2012.

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The Snail and the Whale - trailer

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