The Smeds and the Smoos
Based on the book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Directed by Toby Mitchell
Music and Lyrics by Jon Fiber and Andy Shaw
Puppet Design by Yvonne Stone
A Tall Stories Production
Curve Leicester – Touring
Runs at Curve until Friday 31st December.
Janet is red and she is a Smed. Bill is blue and he is a Smoo. So begins this charming cosmic tale of ‘star-crossed’ aliens, fighting to be together and battling preconceptions and prejudice along the way.
This is a matinee performance, so the auditorium is filled with toddlers and pre-schoolers. It is lovely to see their expectant faces as they wait in their seats. The set design by Barney George is bright, colourful, and creative. The action takes place on a far-off planet, with exotic plants in bright colours such as cobalt blue and fuchsia pink. There is a large crater to the front, various rocks and what looks like the entrance to a colossal cave. At this point, the soundscape comprises strange out-of-this-world sounds reminiscent of the ‘Clangers’ in combination with more familiar earthly-sounding birdsong.
We are all asked to turn off our ‘intergalactic communication devices,’ which raises a smile from the adults and here we go. Janet (Althea Burey) lives with her Grandfather Smed (Tim Hibberd) by a ‘loobular lake’ and is frequently warned that she must NEVER play with the Smoos. Bill (Dan Armstrong) lives with his Grandmother Smoo (Angela Laverick) near a ‘humplety hill’ and she, in turn, warns him against the Smeds. Their mutual dislike is centred on culture and difference in looks. The Smeds drink pink milk whilst the Smoos drink black tea. The Smeds sleep in beds, when the Smoos snooze in holes. We are all told plainly that you should never mix Smed and Smoo.
But the two young aliens do meet up and play in the ‘Wurpular Wood’ and they soon discover that their planet ‘feels more right’ when they are together. Consequently, they hatch a plan and do a ‘squoon-lit flit’ leading their fraught grandparents to roam the galaxy in search of them. Can Smeds and Smoos ever be reconciled and live in harmony?
What follows is a magical blend of catchy songs, adept storytelling, and audience participation that youngsters lap up. They readily join in the actions, squeal loudly when being squirted from the front with water and are bouncing happily along as the show builds to a very satisfying conclusion. If you have not read the book, I do not want to spoil it for you, but there is a big reveal which would soften even the hardest of hearts.
The puppet design by Yvonne Stone is inspired. The ‘Vums’ with their long arms appear to be particular favourites with the audience today, although my own was the ‘Lurglestrop,’ adroitly handled by Burey and Armstrong. Costumes and props are both imaginative and quirky. They have an ‘otherworldly’ quality without being too outlandish or straying too far from Alex Scheffler’s original illustrations. Indeed, if your child loves the book then they will love the show.
In my opinion, it is never too early to introduce children to the joys of live theatre when it has been tailored to them. The suggested age range is three upwards and this would be a gentle introduction to live theatre. The staff members on the day are extremely helpful, guiding everyone effortlessly to their seats and offering booster seats for the littlest visitors.
In simple terms, the overall message of The Smeds and the Smoos is ‘Play with whichever friend you choose,’ and this is delivered by a strong cast who work together and complement each other wonderfully well. Their enthusiasm is infectious, and they genuinely look to be having tremendous fun. At the end of the show Grandfather Smed and Grandmother Smoo ‘dance with delight’ as do plenty of their new fans, both young and old.
Suitable for ages 3 and up
Running time – 1 hour (no interval)