Review: Magical Gruffalo’s Child is an enthralling Christmas treat

The Gruffalo and Gruffalo’s Child, as with many of Julia Donaldson’s children’s books, are etched on the brains of most parents whose toddlers have fallen under the spell of these endearing tales of a mouse who twice triumphs in woodland that is home to a mysterious creature known as the Gruffalo.

Both books transferred into hugely successful animated films in 2009 and 2011 respectively, and have since been adapted to stage shows in the West End and across the UK.

Taking my two and a half year old to see The Gruffalo’s Child at the Arts Depo in Finchley was a big moment – not only was this her first experience of theatre but this was a story she had been enthralled with in the books and on screen for the best part of a year.

At the back of my mind, however, I was thinking ‘how on earth can they make this work on stage?’ For the uninitiated, this is purely an animal kingdom and on screen, it is the physicality and the quirks of these creatures that make it come alive.

What the stage show does, rather successfully, is do something completely different as the animals take on the personas of their human equivalents – so the cunning fox becomes a Del Boy figure and the wise owl is an aging intellectual.

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For my toddler, this concept was slightly tricky to grasp but the older children in the audience loved it – particularly the singing and dancing that accompanied it.

Of course the showpiece for everyone – including my daughter – was the Gruffalo himself, which naturally drew excited gasps from the audience. Again, opting for something completely different, the stage Gruffalo is a mass of fleece and fur, reminiscent of Grizabella in Cats.

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The mouse was arguably the star of the show, acting as narrator, as well as the character who outwits the Gruffalo’s Child in the climax of the story; with the appearance of the BIG BAD MOUSE.

What is quite remarkable about the show is that there are just three actors, with one switching between characters admirably, and the set is simple yet effective – my daughter instantly recognised the DEEP DARK WOOD.

At little over an hour, this was the perfect time span for young children and the show was engaging enough to keep most memorised for that time. Also special mention to the Arts Depo for being so family-friendly; this was my first visit and the facilities were excellent, from the small soft play area to a stool for toddlers to wash their hands in the toilets (the small things count…)

The Gruffalo’s Child is on at the Arts Depo until January 4. For more information, visit

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