Review: The Mouse And his Child, at Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon
The Mouse and His Child is a darker version of Disney-Pixar’s Toy Story – with live jazz.
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s new Christmas show for children tells the story of two wind-up clockwork mice – a father and son - living in a doll’s house in a toy shop. Like The Nutcracker and Toy Story the toys come to life.
Mouse (Daniel Ryan) and Child (Bettrys Jones), are discarded and broken as presents by children on Christmas Day and thrown into a rubbish dump.
It is here they encounter the grimy, underground world of villainous rat Manny, brilliantly executed by Michael Hodgson, who has the psychotic tendencies of a mafia boss and Matilda’s Miss Trunchball.
He lives among the homeless, who double as a live jazz band on one corner of the stage.
The tin mice go on an epic journey in search of a home, independence and their friends ... an elephant on roller-skates and a saxophone-playing seal. Ultimately their dream is to become self-winding.
They are helped along the way by a hippy American fortune-telling frog with a Mexican moustache and a “you will succeed” t-shirt and the abstract “Caws for Art” theatre group run by a trio of eccentric performing birds.
Not being familiar with the cult children’s classic written by American-born author Russell Hoban, it was exciting to watch such an original story unfold for the first time.
What you get is existential Samuel Beckett crossed with Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellows and a sprinkle of Toy Story’s magic thrown in. I’m not sure if my nine-year-old daughter grasped the philosophical dimensions of the play.
“I think the frog is doing a Movember,” she whispers in my ear.
Much of the witty humour is derived from the way the cast capture the quirky mannerisms of the different animals and birds.
They worked with a movement director and watched animal films to achieve this so spectacularly.
It is highly inventive, funny, joyfully anarchic and wonderfully heart-warming without being sentimental or syrupy. There are explosions, real bubbles and some mean jazz tunes. You’ll be dancing in the aisles by the end of the show. A perfect way to start Christmas.
• Until January 12. Suitable for children aged 7 +.Running time: Two hours, 20 minutes including a 20 minute interval.