Review: Mr Stink
Image: Chickenshed Theatre
Mr Stink - Bradley Davis
Duchess - Phil Constantinou
Chloe Crum - Lucy Mae Beacock, Lydia Stables
Annabelle Crumb - Courtney Dayes, Maddie Kavanagh
Mother Crumb - Belinda McGuirk
Sir Dave - Jeremy Vine
Elizabeth - Chanice Anaman, Stella Simao
Father Crumb - Ashley Driver
Raj - Goutham Rohan
Rosamund - Charlotte Laitner, Louise Connolly
Mr Stern - Finn Walters
Prime Minister - Michael Bossisse
The very kind, but lonely, 12 year old Chloe invites the homeless 'Mr Stink' and his dog to leave behind the wooden bench where they have taken up residence and secretly move into her family's shed.
Matters become more complicated when Chloe's mother - who has unfulfilled political ambitions - tries to take credit for Chloe's generosity.
And precisely who is Mr Stink, anyway?
Join us for a brilliantly staged version of this warm-hearted and funny story.
You'll laugh. You'll cry. You might want to hold your nose.
Following 2017's rip-roaringly successful adaptation of The Midnight Gang, Chickenshed proudly presents a brand new adaptation of David Walliams' acclaimed book, Mr Stink.
The last show I saw at Chickenshed's substantial and well-appointed Rayne Theatre had a cast of what seemed like thousands, which must have stretched the theatre's organisational skills to the limit, but the result was enormously impressive, in part because of its sheer scale.
Chickenshed, though, is not the kind of theatre company to rest on its laurels, so it's hardly surprising that the cast size for this adaptation of David Walliams' book is smaller, giving more opportunity for individual performances and for the company to tackle something quite different both in terms of scale and drama for this summer, family production.
A scan through one of the online children's book charts finds best-selling author David Walliams' writing dominating with the likes of The World's Worst Children, The Midnight Gang and Gangsta Granny all highly ranked.
Astonishingly, his books have sold over 25 million copies worldwide.
Mr Stink is one of the writer's earlier works, first published in 2009.
It's ably adapted for this stage version by director Lou Stein, who keeps the essential elements of the story whilst embellishing it with songs that provide an additional layer of interest and also allow for some neatly choreographed dancing from the energetic cast.
To adults, the essential flavour of Mr Walliams' story might appear to be comedic given a central character whose lack of regular bathing leads to him carrying around an appalling stench (thankfully not replicated in realistic detail here).
But I'm not sure that the children in the audience found the story as comedic as we adults might have predicted.
In fact, it's a meaty tale that raises serious and important concepts - some rather sad - and it also makes a signifiant foray into the adult world by introducing politics into the dramatic equation.
Those matters could suggest that some of the play's material might drift over the heads of some younger audience members - but it didn't seem to at all, underscoring the fact that children can digest all kinds of issues, sometimes well in advance of what we expect from their chronological ages.
The plot revolves around a 12 year-old girl called Chloe Crumb who has no friends, is bullied by her peers and seems largely ignored by her mother who dotes on her sister.
Chloe's pretentious mum, who insists on her surname being pronounced as "Croooom" has political ambitions and is standing as an MP on a radical platform with policies such as curfews for children under 30, the outlawing of chicken nuggets and homeless 'soap-dodgers' to be banned from the streets (those and others are documented in political leaflets we're given).
That sits uneasily with Chloe who has befriended a homeless person - Mr Stink - who has an extreme penchant for sausages and lives on a park bench with his dog Duchess.
Keith Dunne works a special kind of magic with a lovingly-designed and hugely impressive set featuring a cartoon-like family home as its focal point centre stage, and a highly detailed garden shed off to one side, which becomes Mr Stink's temporary abode thanks to Chloe's helpful offices.
Mr Dunne's costume design is no less impressive including a finely-crafted, but suitably down at heel outfit for Mr Stink.
The inclusive cast is commendably led by Bradley Davis as the posh-talking, sausage-loving Mr Stink and, on this occasion, Lucy-Mae Beacock as the sad but loving and thoughtful Chloe.
They're well supported by Chickenshed regulars Belinda McGuirk and Ashley Driver as the Crumb parents.
And, as a celebrity bonus, well-known broadcaster, presenter and journalist Jeremy Vine fetches-up, making his professional acting debut as chair of a TV political programme, in a recorded video sequence.
The company singing is strong as are Dave Carey's tuneful melodies that provide accompaniment to nicely-judged and well-delivered dance numbers.
On the evening I saw the show, there were lots of young children in the audience who all seemed totally riveted and absorbed for the duration.
And that is the most potent testament to both the quality of the production and to the captivating power of David Walliams' work, which doesn't shy away from difficult themes, but conveys important messages about inclusivity and caring in our wider community - and which Chickenshed as an organisation wonderfully demonstrate in their daily endeavours.
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ActDrop listing for Chickenshed Theatre
Our show listing for Mr Stink
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