The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse is a wonderfully quirky children’s picture book that is brought to vibrant life by three talented and energetic performers at the Unicorn Theatre this winter.
Wolf (played with compassion and charisma by Cath Whitfield) is feeling out of sorts. No matter what she eats she never feels full. So when she finds a mouse (played by Varun Raj) walking in the woods she is thrilled and gobbles him down whole.
“Down through the gullet the little mouse slides and finds himself in the big bad wolf’s insides.”
Mouse’s initial terror is soon dissipated by the discovery of Duck, played with vigour and zeal by a flipper-wearing Samuel Buttery, who has made his home there. Together they dine on the scraps Wolf swallows and dance to the rhythm of the organs. When a fly gets caught they decide three is a crowd and send him back up the throat to escape.
Poor Wolf with a dancing Duck and Mouse in her belly is feeling worse than ever and picks up her guitar to sing a song (to the tune of Kumbaya): I’m so miserable, I’m so sad. I’m supposed to be big and bad. They all laugh at me and I know why. The Queen of the forest can’t catch a fly.”
At that moment two hunters arrive to try to shoot at Wolf and the play comes to its zany conclusion as Mouse and Duck save Wolf’s life and they all live happily ever after (although not, perhaps, in the way you might expect).
The set, designed by Amelia Jane Hankin, is made out of abstract tree trunks with holes for faces to poke through so that the trees can become narrators: “have you heard the news about Jed? He got the chop. He’s now a bed.”
Jack McNamara’s adaptation of Mac Barnett’s picture book is fast-paced and funny and his direction is tight. The cast enthral their young audience with their exuberance, even a hurt foot that confines Wolf to a chair can’t slow the show down, and the 45 minutes hurtles along. The age guidance is 3-7 but older siblings and parents will have just as much fun.
Adapted and Directed by Jack McNamara
Tickets: £12 – £22 under 18s / £18 – £28 adults (afternoons offer lowest prices, holiday weekends & 20-24 Dec at top price. Holiday dates 19 Dec – 5 Jan)