Ah, the days of the bedtime story… snuggling down in my duvet… the thrill of Mumsy intoning Rudyard Kipling’s immortal words: “And it was so – just so – a little time ago…”
So you can understand why the prospect of a stage production of the Just So Stories got my old nostalgia nerves tingling. And thankfully, Red Table Theatre’s delightful production at the Lost Theatre did not disappoint.
Director Rafe Beckley relies on a selection of simple, Blue Peter-style props to bring four of Kipling’s stories to stage, taking us from the creation of the world and the tides, in and out of the belly of a whale, right up to how the camel got his hump and how the elephant got his long nose.
A pair of red gloves and some scissors became The Crab that Played with the Sea; a set of sock puppets became grumbling dogs and horses; and the Elephant’s Child had his nose stretched out into a trunk by the crocodile in the form of a Slinky.
The four actresses – Tressa Brooks, Freya Parsons, Jo Wickham and Emma Manley – took to the task with boundless energy, which only occasionally stumbled into slightly rushed delivery. Their chorus-style storytelling squeezed every ounce of meaning from the “satiable curtiosities” and “scalesome flailsomes” that litter Kipling’s whimsical prose.
Every act was rounded off with Kipling’s songs set to appropriately folksy harmonies, devised by the cast themselves to be belted out as they marched through slick scene changes.
OK, so I’m not eight years old. And yes, I admit it was a bit embarrassing waiting to go into the Lost Theatre, feeling painfully judged by the Easter Hols Mummies of Wandsworth. But it was worth it for the simple, imaginative joy of Red Table Theatre’s Just So Stories.
The young audience were clearly loving it, too – after all, they got sit in the “snuggle pit” of cushions and cuddly toys at the front of the stage (I was well jeal). No one was remotely asleep at the end of this bedtime story, stoked as they were on the excitement of the show – and the £1.50 pick ‘n’ mix from the Lost Theatre bar.
Just So Stories at the Lost Theatre, 208 Wandsworth Rd London SW8 2JU
The production will go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer for a second year running.