The Hunting of the Snark looks and sounds like a child’s dream. This fantasy version of the classic Lewis Carroll’s poem is sure to please audiences of any age.

SnarkAll aboard! The ship is ready to depart! All children, animals and silly people welcome!

The Hunting of the Snark has come a long way since the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2015. It can be seen now at the Vaudeville Theatre in all its technicolour glory.

The success of theatre for children can be measured in moments of silence, gales of giggles and random dancing in the aisles, and using this criteria The Hunting of the Snark is a wild success. In addition to the enthralled children, there was an equal measure of enjoyment from the adults who laughed in all the right places and joined in with the silliness.

Just as the level of silly rose to an almost unbearable level there was a justification for it in the story. ‘If you want to find a silly animal you have to find it in a silly way’ marked the beginning of an extended celebration of silliness as the cast began to search for the snark wearing their boots on their hands.

The Hunting of the Snark is a success due to an amalgamation of several key factors. The foundation of the piece is the poem of the same name written by Lewis Carroll as escapism for his ill godson. Carroll later admitted that the story is a parable about the search for happiness.

SnarkThere are several morals in the story not the least of which is ‘sometimes what you want takes a little longer than you’d like.’ The other is a non-too subtle reminder to parents about their priorities in a busy life where a child is often set lower down the order compared to work commitments and mobile phones.

Director Gemma Colclough is credited as co-creator of this new adaptation of Carroll’s poem along with writer Annabel Wigoder. Their adaptation has turned Carroll’s whimsical and wondering verse into a much tighter narrative form. It still retains the vital element of nonsense.

The beauty of a totally fictional setting is that design is only limited by imagination. In this production Justin Nardella has provided a magical setting for the hunt. Four canvas sails define the space and echo the start of the journey on the ship. Lit with projections and lighting effects, the canvases are a powerful focus that cradle the story and the performers. One beautiful scene is set at night and the blank canvases become a panoply of planets with the help of some invisible artwork made visible by designer magic.

Scenes are quickly changed using boxes and fantastical flower trees to prompt the imaginations of the audience in painting the rest of Snark Island in their own minds. This new landscape is then peopled by ‘outrageously frabjous creatures’ like the multi-coloured Jubjub bird who covets colourful objects, and the Bandersnatch who snatches all things shiny. The last to be seen…or rather not seen…is the Snark. Represented by two glowing eyes in the dark, the form of the Snark remains intentionally ambiguous.

SnarkThe lighting design of Ceri James adds further complexity to the design, overcoming the restrictions of a shared stage space. Sound suffers more from the sharing of the performance space, losing some clarity and balance in execution.

The Hunting of the Snark contains a delightful musical score, with music and lyrics by Gareth Cooper. The orchestration is simple – acoustic guitar, bass and drums. It is a perfect accompaniment to the songs.

The opening number Breaking News, is an excellent exposition of the narrative. It has a melody that sticks in the brain and some lovely ensemble harmonies. Each member of the cast has a featured song and a highlight is the comic frightener Give Me a Snark to Kill. This song features The Butcher, played by Polly Smith as a villain to charm as well as scare and revolt the audience.

With the exception of Jordan Leigh-Harris as the Boy and Simon Turner as the Banker, the boy’s father, the ensemble cast cover many characters between them. The Banker funds the expedition to hunt the Snark and the Boy decides to stow away to join his father in the adventure. Leigh-Harris has some poignant moments and handles the child’s role with suitable simplicity. Turner has a wonderfully silly scene with the Jubjub and melts into a more sympathetic father figure at the climax of the play.

SnarkWill Bryant was in the original 2015 Edinburgh production of the show and reprises the dual role of the Baker and the Bandersnatch amongst other minor characters. The children in the audience particularly appreciate the lost soul of the Baker with his silly one-line jokes and his inability to remember who he is.

The final member of the cast of five is Ben Gulpin. He plays the leader of the expedition, The Bellman and also the Jubjub, again with other minor roles. Gulpin is not easily recognizable as the Jubjub, a large puppet character something in the vein of a colourful and hairy cousin to Big Bird. He gives the bird a quirky personality to match his looks. Gulpin also makes The Bellman a large character and shows good comedic timing.

The cast display skill, versatility and endurance in taking so many characters aboard with such clear definition, even given that good costuming helps. This is a fast and furious show and affords little time to change between scenes. They all seem to have a hand in manipulating the silliest character of all. Another puppet, the Beaver, knits and becomes companion to the Boy. The Beaver is loveable and a favourite with the young audience.

SnarkThis version of the classic The Hunting of the Snark seems set for a long life with a UK tour about to start and a future that leads around the world. Perhaps it will make it to Snark Island itself.

The Hunting of the Snark looks and sounds like a child’s dream. This fantasy version of the classic Lewis Carroll’s poem is sure to please audiences of any age.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
The Hunting Of The Snark
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Viola Patrick
Viola has been obsessed with all things theatre since she was young and first encountered the Les Miserables soundtrack. Totally hooked, Viola later studied Theatre at Reading University, where she was able to perform on stage, as well as writing and directing her own material. She has written theatre reviews for newspapers and magazines and is looking forward to joining the exciting world of LivetheatreUK.com and online reviewing.