Perfect theatrical adaptation of much-loved children's picture book
Bursting with songs, humour and clever references for the grown-ups, New Perspectives Theatre Company have brought John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway's fabulous children's picture book to the stage in a full-fruit version with added bite.
Jack McNamara, who is responsible for the adaptation, certainly knows what is needed for such an enterprise. Trading on the familiar with a recorded introduction, the main plot is quickly underway, as many wasps arrive in the village of Itching Down and the villagers don't know what to do.
McNamara makes no attempt to reproduce the book on stage, but fleshes out the bones of its plot and rhymes, creating fully rounded characters for Bap the Baker and Farmer Seed, as the driving forces behind the villager's plan to create a huge sandwich and trap the swarming wasps.
Music provides another dimension – and none of your unfortunate half-hearted ditty nonsense for James Atherton. His score allows the actors to throw back their heads and let it rip – particularly Paul Critoph as Bap and Sarah Ratheram's strongly vocal Seed.
Expanding the plot allows Bun a backstory – his wife left him for a cheese maker. Crucial to the story now is Mayor Muddlenut, who Christopher Finn creates as kindly and knowing but with the prickliness of an exasperated teacher.
The wasps now have voices while the villagers themselves swarm around thanks to the judicious use of hats to create a succession of quick-change characters. The giant loaf feels suitably huge and is made with a nicely finessed bit of audience participation, and the odd extra character brings this into the 21st century, while maintaining its 1970s feel.
This is exactly how to adapt picture books for the stage, and it's perfect for fans and newbies alike.
Pleasance Courtyard, until 28 Aug (not 14), 10.20am, £9.50–£11.50 (£8.50–£10.50).