Last year Reuben and I marked the end of the school year by visiting Chickenshed for a very special performance of Mr Stink with David Walliams himself in attendance. This year term isn’t quite done yet and it’s Eva with me instead of Roo but Mr Stink is back at Chickenshed before a UK tour and we were there to see in the summer in style. I haven’t read my review from last year in case I spoiler it for myself so apologies if I repeat myself at all. At least I was on time this year.
Early even! Eva and I had time to explore the community market in the Chickenshed garden before the show started and she persuaded me to buy her an oreo pop.
We were lucky enough to be sitting in the front row and spent some time before the start studying the set, which looked a little different from last time. Eva thought it was “amazing” but she was confused by the white lump of plastic that looked nothing like her idea of a telephone. Ah, the youth of today!
It was while we were sitting there that I found out that Eva had read the whole of Mr Stink in one night. I remembered her starting it on Reuben’s orders the evening I told her about the show but I hadn’t realised she’d devoured it in one sitting. I’d like to know what time she went to bed that night. Actually, on second thoughts I don’t want to know….
The show started with a spoken introduction over the PA from David Walliams, which I don’t remember from last time. A lot of the cast were the same but there were a few changes, most notably Joseph Morton in the title role. He certainly filled the stinky boots well tho and there wasn’t a beat missed in the whole show.
As Eva knew the story already there weren’t many surprises in terms of plot- although she jumped when Mr Stink unleashed his almighty burp on the bullies. She loved the songs and dances though, which I think really flesh out the source text and make it into a show rather than just a retelling of the story. The ensemble were slick in both their singing and their dancing, with the main characters seamlessly integrated into the routines. Occasionally there would be a solo singing line that could have done with being at a slightly higher volume but that’s a minor thing. Generally, the music was beautifully blended and, as always with Chickenshed, full of energy. I rightly predicted that Eva would enjoy Annabel’s ballet dancing but I’m hoping she doesn’t get any ideas about how many extra curriculars you can fit into a week.
The main parts were well cast, with Chloe full of earnest youthfulness, wanting to change the world in a slightly misguided way. Belinda McGuirk as Mrs Croooomb was prissy and cold with the mannerisms of a modern day Hyacinth Bouquet. Courtney Dayes as Annabel was similarly prissy and annoying in the perfect little-sister way. Ashley Driver as Father brought a touch of heart to the family as well as a touch of rock and roll. And then there were cameos from everyone’s favourite David Walliams character Raj (Goutham Rohan) and Jeremy Vine as Sir David on “Politics Tonight”, which was one of Eva’s favourite bits.
I’m pretty sure I said this last year but special mention has to go to Lucy Mae Beacock who very much carries the show as Chloe. Her singing is so pure especially her falsetto notes, and her dancing absolutely effortless. I don’t know how old she is – I thought she was older than 12 but Eva thinks she’s 9. “Which means she can compete in Witch Wars and she’d like Witch Wars because everyone wears black and black is Chloe’s favourite colour” However old she is, though, it’s a very assured and accomplished performance.
The first half ended with Mr Stink’s surprise appearance in the Croombs’ kitchen and with that it was time to get some fresh air and a lollipop in the Chickenshed garden:
Which she later used to pretend she was Chloe, wearing a radio mic:
The second half had a great deal of pathos, which occasionally made my girl let out a sob. Mr Stink’s backstory is all the more tragic for the low-key way it’s portrayed, and the way he is used as a political pawn is subtle but emotional. She didn’t haven’t a proper cry until Chloe and her mother were having a heart to heart in the kitchen and I must admit to feeling a bit teary then too. “Mr Stink” has a lot to say about the nature of family and where we find our true home. It never tips into over-the-top sentimental but, as with a lot of Chickenshed productions, manages to touch the audience right in the feelings.
The show is now on tour and I’d strongly recommend you catch it while it’s nearby. It’s a great family show with plenty to keep the 5+ plus market entertained. It’s two hours, which might be testing for smaller ones, but perfect for Walliams fans who enjoy good storytelling and a bit of spectacle. The tour dates are as follows – more information and tickets here:
Cheltenham Everyman 22 – 27 July.
Shrewsbury Theatre Severn, Walker 29 – 31 July.
Gordon Craig Theatre Stevenage 1 – 3 August.
Lowestoft Marina Theatre 5 – 7 August.
Southport Floral Hall 9 – 11 August.
Southampton Nuffield Theatre 12 – 14 August.
Barnstaple Queens Theatre 16 – 18 August.
Bolton Albert Halls 20 – 23 August.
Watersmeet Theatre Rickmansworth 25 – 27 August.
Llaneli Lyric Theatre 28 – 30 August.
Disclaimer: I received free press tickets in exchange for a review. All opinions remain honest and my own.