Saturday, December 16, 2006

REVIEW: Flat Stanley, West Yorkshire Playhouse

Flat Stanley is a children’s story that was written by Jeff Brown and first published in 1964. In the story Stanley Lambchop becomes flat when he is crushed by a bulletin board that falls on him in bed whilst he is sleeping. Stanley is discovered the next morning by his parents (Mom and Dad Lambchop) and brother Arthur. They set about trying to find out if he will recover, by taking him to the doctor, to discover that nobody knows what his fate will be. During the story Stanley gets into all manner of adventures including being lowered down a drain to find a ring, sliding under doors, being turned into a kite and flown in the park, and disguising himself as a painting to catch an art thief.

Flat Stanley has been adapted for the stage by Mike Kenny and performed at the West Yorkshire Playhouse by a cast of four British actors: Stewart Cairns (Stanley); Ian Bonar (Arthur); Lisa Howard (Mom); and Robin Simpson (Dad). All actors also play a variety of other characters including New York Cops, Doctor, Museum Manager and thief. Their performances as an all American family (and others) are superb, with the accents and mannerisms down to a tea.

When Stanley becomes ‘flat’, he is walked around as a puppet by ‘round’ i.e. ‘normal’ Stanley – actor Stewart Cairns who is also plainly visible working the puppet – as a concept this works well, and after a while you tend to stop noticing the presence of the actor, and focus on the Puppet. The play also features several annoyingly catchy tunes – especially the egg song ‘fried, boiled, poached, scrambled, yum, yum yum, yum, yum’ being one of them (which four days later is still in my head).

The suggested ages that this play would appeal to, are three to seven year olds, however there are a sprinkling of ‘adult’ jokes that the kids just wont get to keep Mums and Dads amused too (a few more would have been even better). This is the first ever stage adaption of Flat Stanley, and after seeing it, one can’t help but wonder if in future years a big screen version will follow.

Flat Stanley is running at the West Yorkshire Playhouse until the 13th January, tickets are priced £8.00.

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