Theatre Review – Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax at the Old Vic
I’ll start by saying that I saw one of the later previews of this show (press night is on Wednesday), but as it was still a preview, the show was still under development. That disclaimer aside, I thought this was, overall, a delightful, fun, entertaining trip to the Old Vic, which will appeal to the young and the young at heart.
If, like me, you are unfamiliar with the book by Dr. Seuss, the Lorax of the title is a small, furry, beaver-like creature, whose job it is to look after the trees. This Lorax lives in a beautiful forest paradise where the Truffula trees grow, together with bears, fish, swans and an array of wildlife. In to this paradise arrives Once-ler, sent off by his family to make their fortune. His idea – to make Thneed (a strange knitted “garment” with no identifiable use) from the trees. As his success grows, the wheels of progress and industry threaten to change the Lorax’s home forever.
Adapted from the book by David Greig, it is an interesting way to make children think about conservation, the importance of our environment and our often total lack of respect for it. It’s also interesting for adults too, as your instinct is to be on the Lorax’s side, judging the dreadful destruction of natural beauty by Once-ler. This of course also at the same time feels very hypocritical, seeing as he ultimately represents us and how we are treating our planet! The message then – we all need to find our inner Lorax!
Simon Paisley Day sometimes comes across as incredibly cheesy as Once-ler, but I suspect that’s deliberate and overall I think he makes him likeable in a way, despite his faults. I also thought he was a little weak at some of the earlier songs and I found it hard to hear him over the music. However, the ensemble cast provide solid support overall (special mention to Richard Katz, especially during the fashion show scene in the second half!). I also loved the pre-second act introduction, emphasising the comedy of the rhyming form of the story.
The Lorax itself is a lovely little puppet, brilliantly created by Nick Barnes and Finn Caldwell and brought to life effectively by the three puppeteers, which is no mean feat, when it is so much smaller than they are and yet still manages to be your focus, not them (if taking kids, ask for a cushion to raise them up a bit to make sure they can see him). Simon Lipkin brings the Lorax’s personality to life through his vocal performance and had a solid singing voice too. He managed to convey all the emotions of the creature, as he witnesses what industrial growth and modernization means for his home.
The songs aren’t hugely memorable. I don’t remember any of them now, but they are fun and lively for the duration of the show which, with its colourful set by Rob Howell, has lots to captivate the younger audience in particular. Although I can’t sing it now, the fashion show song scene was a particular highlight of mine. Quite cheesy and bonkers, but also lots of fun to watch. Thinking about it, the only slight irritation I found was taking my seat too early beforehand meant the sound effects of crashing noises which fill the auditorium before curtain up did start to drive me mad!
I’d certainly recommend this show over the festive period. Families will have a fun and entertaining time, but there’s also enough for adults without children to enjoy too (plus some of the jokes are aimed at the older audience). It’s warm-hearted, full of colour and will make you smile, all a perfect recipe for this time of year. Also, don’t miss the free packets of flower seeds being handed out by the ushers on your way out; which I thought was a lovely touch, helping everyone to think a little bit more about taking care of and appreciating the beauty of the world around us.
Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax has its press night on 16th December and runs at the Old Vic Theatre until 16th January 2016. Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes, including a 20 minute interval. For more information, visit the website here.