Kipling's Just So Stories 2012

Broadway Baby 5 Stars (plus 6th star - BOBBY Award)

Chances are you know Rudyard Kipling’s ‘Just So Stories’ already but you’ve probably never been told those stories quite like this before. Newbury Youth Theatre are a lively, inventive group who tell the classic stories, such as ‘How The Camel Got His Hump’ and ‘The Elephant’s Child,’ in a way which is joyful to watch. These aren’t the kind of stories to send children to sleep, they’re the kind that will keep them up all night asking for more.

Before the stories begin, the cast lie asleep, lounging in huge suitcases, dressed like explorers, all mud-faced and dressed in knee-high socks. The quiet doesn’t last very long before someone rings a loud bell to wake everyone up. It’s time for a story. From the moment the cast first lined-up to introduce themselves, gleefully shouting their favourite things, it was clear that this group are natural entertainers. When one member of the ensemble yells ‘In the beginning!’ it recalled perfectly that initial excitement before the reading of a bedtime story.

Every giant suitcase opened marked another story to tell, each conveyed as cleverly as the one before. It’s not the stories themselves but the way they were told that makes this such riotous good fun. The cast said every single word like it mattered and as ridiculously and loudly as they could. They’re an energetic, chaotic bunch, almost fighting to tell the stories but never overpowering one another. They used their bodies to illustrate the tales too: stretching themselves like the tall giraffe or giving a great big ‘humph’ like the camel. Their energy was incredible, it’s rare to see such a big ensemble working so well together to tell the story. It’s also impossible to pick out one member’s performance as standout, as they were all so fantastic and it was the combined voices that made these stories come to life.

Their facial expressions and mannerisms are hysterical; if you can, sit near the front. It’s worth it to see such silly and carefree acting. This cast didn’t even need to rely on audience interaction because the way they told the stories was more than enough to captivate the audience. The songs are also gloriously good fun and the puppets and props used throughout were always used in surprisingly inventive ways.

This is exciting and vibrant storytelling which invests new life into the old stories. No matter what age you are, you’ll want this group to tell you bedtime stories.