Combining the charm of old-school kid’s television with slick, modern production values, Freckle Productions’ take on Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s Stick Man proves a family theatre winner. On national tour, it plays at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh until Sunday 22nd October 2023.
It should be difficult, to say the least, to take the illustrated adventures of a stick and translate these onto stage but the show works. One of a presumably endangered race of animate sticks, Stick Man has a lady love and three stick kids. Keeping fit, however, soon turns into a series of unfortunate adventures, when a routine jog places him in the path of a stray dog.
With Designer Katie Sykes’s suitably cute dolls in hand, the stickman aesthetic is maintained. Stick man, played by flesh and blood Ben Williamson-Jones with this miniature in hand, displays an absolute commitment to the part. He is, at all times, Stick Man, a being with hopes, dreams, and dignity, prone to yelping when eager dogs take a chomp out of his – or rather the puppet’s – backside.
Lubricating the show from start to end are Benji Bower’s compositions under the direction of Brian Hargreaves. It’s merry, mood-evoking stuff, and a propelling force to the drama. Rich in mandolin and whistle it’s a pleasant world to inhabit for 55 minutes, and ably gilded by actor-musician Rosie Malone’s talents with percussion, and saxophone.
There are even a few original songs speckling the show, and these are performed ably, and with immense good spirit. Completing the on-stage trio, actor Rosie Pepper is charming as a dog, beach kid, swan, and stick man’s lady love. In choir, they achieve a competent harmony, on top of enjoying a jaunty chemistry throughout the drama. They conspire also conspire well through the play’s more dramatic scenes, conveying snowstorms and roaring rivers with help from Elanor Higgins‘ lighting designs.
Sally Cookson’s originating concept is a strong one, superior to that of Freckle Productions’ Zog and the Flying Doctors. It retains the charm, and merriment of the book, whilst adding a little theatrical magic. Under director Mark Kane, there’s no sign of any loss of momentum! The panto-esque opportunities for audience engagement are sharp and well-signposted. The story is conveyed with clarity, with plenty of hooks for sympathy from all ages.
Stick Man also works a charm as an Autumn teaser for Christmas, roping in Santa as it does for its Rudolph-enhanced finale. Only 67 days till Christmas announced Santa before exiting stage right!
Stick Man is produced by Freckle Productions
Show Details – Lyceum dates
Dates: Fri 20 – Sun 22 Oct
Age Recommendation: 3+
Running Time: 55 minutes
- Wheelchair Accessible Venue
- Wheelchair Accessible Toilet
- Audio Enhancement System