Reviewed by Demi Franks
Opening Night verdict ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Fresh from it’s sizzling summer stint in the West End, a stage adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks’ ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ classic children’s book is making its way across the country on an autumn tour.
“The Ladybird said never a word, but the Ladybird saw and the Ladybird heard…” So when burglars plot to seal the prize cow, little do they know the Ladybird is about to save the day…
It was so lovely to see the Lowry Theatre in Salford ‘buzzing’ this Sunday morning with lots of little, excitable (children dressed up as Ladybirds), coming to see what could possibly be their first ever theatrical experience.
At first thought you’d be right to think, how could this sweet (but very small) children’s book be turned into a 55-minute musical play? Well, with director Graham Hubbard at the helm, the team here have successfully adapted this much loved story into a well-imagined, perfectly-timed, warm-hearted, enchanting stage version.
Whilst Donaldon’s words have been developed and evolved for the stage, with the addition of music and lyrics and a few other surprises along the way, the familiarity of the original story still remains at the heart of this theatrical version. Indeed, after working closely in the developmental stages with the creative team, illustrator, Lydia Monks’ pictures appear to have been transported straight from ‘page to stage,’ which as a result has enabled Bek Palmer to create a versatile and beautifully enticing set, which hugely aids in the cleverly, creative unraveling of the story, just like the book. Whilst simultaneously enabling the audience, both adult and children alike, to feel instantly comfortable and at home as they take their seats for this classic tale’s debut tour.
Musically, Fiber and Shaw have created some ‘Jolly Good Tunes’ that come as a welcome addition with this stage version and really helps engage the young audience’s imagination, facilitating the right level of audience participation, with some singing and bopping along the way too!
One of the most delightful and endearing moments of the piece occurs when the cast come together through song to assemble the well known animals of the story using only the materials on the farm. Here we see the full concept of this smart and innovative piece in full flow, as a sheep is created out of a wheelbarrow, a dog is born using a big sweeping brush and a horse erected from an old bicycle; all of which become fully formed, re-occuring personalities throughout the play and add a rather lovely artistic dynamic.
Special kudos to this small yet talented cast who individually act, sing and jig around the space, all whilst playing a musical instrument or two and with the unwavering amount of energy a piece like this requires (especially at 11am on a Sunday morning to a busy, rustling and wriggly young auditorium), which is no mean feat in itself!
This is a tight ensemble who bring a great sense of warmth and drive to the narrative throughout the duration on the performance.
Although advertised for age 3+, my two and a half year old niece was fully engaged in the storytelling and thoroughly enjoyed herself. This stage version of the classic tale, has the perfect amount of humour, heart and imagination for young ‘theatre first-timers,’ toddlers and little ones alike.
‘Mooo’-ve quick and ‘baa’ sure to catch ‘What the Ladybird heard’ in a theatre near you!
You can find tickets and more information here.