A charming production by the Leeds Children's Theatre with a captivating storyline for youngsters and acting well beyond their years by the young people taking part.
After rescuing a toy duck from the dustbin in their backyard, Mr Fisher and Mr Wheeler, two garden gnomes, decide to venture into the big wide world. The gnomes' objective is to find a holiday island, just like the "Big Ones", but being unused to the hazards of the town, they almost don't make it. Although nothing turns out quite as expected, they all agree that it is the best holiday they have ever had.
Robyn Grant as Mr Fisher and Michael Lockwood as Mr Wheeler were on stage throughout this two-hour production and I must congratulate them on their performances which were faultless throughout. Their diction was impeccable and their singing a delight. Audience participation was also included when we were invited to join in the song about the perils of crossing the road, "Use your eyes and ears before you cross the road..." The other major principal part was that of "Chips" the cat played by Sophie Stainton whose song, "On my patch" was acted extremely well.
Louise McDermid as the baby duck "Fluffy" was highly amusing and even though she had no actual lines to perform, her "quacks" were timed to perfection. There was also good support from Jack Dobson as Securidog and Andrew Plygawko as Wacker.
The songs and music for this production is by David Wood OBE, and this again is aimed very much at the level of youngsters, being catchy, melodic and simple but effective.
The Children's Theatre was founded in 1935 and is therefore celebrating their 70th anniversary this year. The group is staffed entirely by volunteers who offer their vast range of experience to the younger members, covering most aspects of theatrical production. Membership is open to all young people interested in theatre. Their popular Saturday morning drama workshops offer an excellent introduction to the group, and they currently have a two-year waiting list for places, so have had to close the list for the foreseeable future. Some of the famous faces to have taken part in the group in the past have included Angela Griffin (Cutting It, Holby City, Coronation Street) and John Craven (Country File, Newsround).
|Ex-Leeds Children's Theatre member Angela Griffin|
Since the closure of the Civic Theatre the Leeds Children's Theatre have been meeting at the Town Hall but from now onwards, The Carriageworks in Millennium Square will be their permanent home.
The production, directed by Judith Daniel moves at a good pace and there is always plenty of action for the youngsters in the audience to enjoy. And not just the youngsters, as I noted by the response from the two ladies from Morley Amateurs, sitting next to me on the opening night, who thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
The Ideal Gnome Expedition is at The Carriageworks, Millennium Square from Tuesday 15 - Saturday 19 November 2005.