Dr Seuss’ favourite work is finally brought to the stage thanks to the Old Vic. Brilliantly developed, this re-imagining of the classic children’s story develops the characters and story further, drawing on contemporary culture, as well as adding dance and songs.
David Greig’s adaptation is based on Dr Seuss’ rhyming fable for children. The story is a polemic against the wholesale destruction of our natural environment to make pointless consumer goods. Greig has developed the background of the old Once-ler, the first person to come across the land of the Brown Bar-ba-loots, the Swomee Swans, the Humming Fish and, of course, the Truffula Trees, without losing any of Seuss’s original charm or poetry. This new version makes much of the Once-ler’s avaricious manufacturing family and their hunger for their next project. In the second half, the story takes the whole production of the thneed onto a new level with an insane catwalk scene presenting the new Thneed 2.0 to some wild rock and roll music. A wider criticism of capitalism becomes evident here.
Charlie Fink, former frontman of Noah and the Whale, has done a good job in composing the songs to this show, with a number of notable numbers. If only the soundtrack was out already – we would love to have another listen.
The set starts grey and grim just as the far end of the town is pictured in the book, but brilliantly transforms into the lush and colourful land where Truffula trees grow. The world is made richer by Seuss’s language and Greig’s too, with the entire show performed in rhyme. A notable addition was the extended scene of the first customer to buy a thneed, a modern businessmen, speaking on his mobile in rhyme, taking selfies and tweeting about his purchase without breaking any of the rhythm.
The colour and energy in this tremendous production from the Old Vic brings Seuss’s story to life in a extraordinary way that will win the hearts and minds of young and old. The Old Vic, however, has missed a trick by not having the book available, as the message of The Lorax can never be spread enough. But it did make up for this by handing out free seeds after the show, so there will soon be some ‘wild flowers’ growing in the GingerWig’s garden… This is an interesting family show from the point of view of communicating a very important message about the environment within what is largely a piece of entertainment. Well done to Matthew Warchus for putting this together and the entire creative team and cast for a charming show that lost none of Dr Seuss’ message.
Highlight of the show – The Lorax himself: a puppet manipulated extraordinarily by three performers, one of whom is his voice, head and left arm, another his feet and the third his left arm and torso. The puppet steals the show with all his heartfelt entreaties to protect his land.