Review by Rosie Holmes
The Smeds and the Smoos is the 4th of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s book to be adapted by theatre company Tall Stories, with previous adaptations including The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom. It’s clearly a partnership which works as The Smeds and The Smoos proves to be a joyous hour of theatre for young theatregoers complete with a wonderfully uplifting story, catchy songs and audience interactivity.
The Smeds and the Smoos tells the story of two star crossed alien lovers, Janet the Smed and Bill the Smoo. Their families tell them they must not play together and spread rumours about how the others live. However, Bill and Janet are in love and escape on a rocket together to get married. Their warring families chase after them, touring neighbouring weird and wonderful planets, united by their shared goal of finding Bill and Janet. It’s a lovely story with themes of tolerance and acceptance that kept my 3 year-old nephew entertained for the most part, with the exception of a few wriggly moments (a pretty impressive feat considering his age.)
Bringing the story to life is talented and hard-working cast of 4 who not only play named roles but swap and change as all kinds of creatures throughout the show. Felicia Akin-Tayo is wonderful as Janet the Smed, bouncing with energy and charming throughout. Robert Penny, plays love interest Bill the Smoo, engages all with his joyous energy. Tom Capper is charismatic as Grandfather Smed, entertaining the audience with his many voices, and Andrea Sadler is commanding as Grandmother Smoo, taking on a kind of narrator role alongside Capper, that helps move the narrative along.
Tall Stories bring Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s work to life with a glorious set, some impressive puppets, and catchy songs. There are some wordier scenes that perhaps could have been a little shorter to ensure little ones were kept engaged, but there was still plenty to keep little them entertained and, rather impressively in a theatre full of small children, it certainly felt they were all having a wonderful time. This is partly achieved by Barney George’s gorgeous set design. It is at once interesting and impressive, yet never too overwhelming for those who may be experiencing their first ever theatre show. Trees spring up from the stage and outer space is created by some twinkling stars.
A rocket is fashioned from some cardboard cut outs which works effectively and most definitely impressed my nephew, however it was the puppets that we really enjoyed watching. Puppet designer Yvonne Stone must really have had some fun designing the puppets in the show, as the Smeds and the Smoos visit various planets they encounter all kinds of wacky aliens and creatures including aliens in kilts, on stilts and slime monsters. My nephew squealed and pointed with delight each time one of the puppets appeared, bringing Axel Scheffler’s illustrations to life in a way that more than honours her glorious illustrations.
Also keeping young theatregoers entertained was the inclusion of music, there was perhaps one song too many but for the most part they kept the show fast-moving and we loved clapping along to the songs. In fact, the final song was so catchy myself and my nephew found ourselves singing it for the rest of the afternoon. Keeping children sat still for an hour is extremely tricky so plenty of audience interaction was welcomed by both adults and children. We were asked to swim along with Janet the Smed as well as learning some dance moves. In pantomime style we joined in with a game of hide and seek with excitable choruses of ‘he’s behind you!’. A word of warning though, do be careful if you sit in the stalls because you may even find yourself being splashed, much to the delight of all the children and the dismay of many of the adults!
The Smeds and the Smoos is a truly wonderful story of love and acceptance which makes for a perfect and uplifting first trip to the theatre for young children. Its advertised for children aged 3 and up, although some wordier scenes mean its probably most suited for those around 4-7. Tall Stories impress with their signature puppetry and some truly catchy songs that mean The Smeds and The Smoos is a delightful summer holidays outing that both myself and young nephew enjoyed.
The Smeds and The Smoos plays at the Lyric Theatre until Sunday 3rd September 2023, tickets are available here- The Smeds and The Smoos - Nimax Theatres
Photos by Mark Senior