This play tells the story of Benji and Alf, next-door neighbours becoming best friends, bonded by their love of the titular ‘Fairly Tales’. These feature a rambling mashup of familiar fairytale characters such as the troll from
This sketching mechanic is an excellent idea; flexible, fast and vivid whilst leaving room for the imagination of the audience, both big and small, to fill in the gaps.
This sketching mechanic is an excellent idea; flexible, fast and vivid whilst leaving room for the imagination of the audience, both big and small, to fill in the gaps. It’s built on further halfway through the show with the introduction of a magic lock of hair which can erase details of the scenery; a promising concept which is then disappointingly never followed up.
Just as the show’s central visual approach is slightly wasted so too is the story slightly threadbare. Once again there is a promising introduction about the power of a simple pencil to create worlds, a thought very much in line with the show’s sketch-based production but which is never really highlighted again. Instead we are left with two little boys seemingly making random decisions, disappearing off stage with no explanation purely to create drama and reappearing just as suddenly to get on with the next scene.
As Benji and Alf, Joshua Mathieson and Ray Hunwicks bring energy to the stage but an oversimplified and threadbare plot makes it easy to lose sight of the story and creates a sense that, like Alf, the actors are making it up as they go along. This may be children's theatre but even the youngest child knows how a story should flow and will lose interest quickly (or, like the little girl in front of me, simply keep asking their parents what’s going on all the way through) if they can’t understand the plot or identify with the characters.
There are a lot of good ideas waiting to be developed further in Fairly Tales and there can be no doubt of the leads’ enthusiasm. However, it lacks polish, feeling a little underprepared and underwritten. The ever-changing scenery helps to keep things fresh but, without a clear story to follow, your little ones’ attention spans may be a little tested.