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The Smeds and The Smoos Review

"This is a story about accepting those around you, regardless of your background or your differences."

The Smeds and The Smoos is the latest production from renowned theatre company Tall Stories. Back in 1999, the company enquired about adapting Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's The Gruffalo for the stage, a show that continues to play around the country, now Tall Stories have turned their hand to another of Donaldson and Scheffler's books, The Smeds and The Smoos which finds its home for Christmas at Curve.

Althea Burey, Tim Hibberd, Angela Laverick, and Dan Armstrong. Photo - Tall Stories.

It's a simple but effective tale with a powerful message of love and acceptance regardless of who you are. It's labeled by director Toby Mitchell as being "like Romeo and Juliet but with aliens and a happy ending". We meet The Smeds and the Smoos, two different families who strongly oppose the two ever mixing. One day Bill (a Smoo) and Janet (a Smed) meet up and form a bond and fall in love with each other. 

Once their being together is discovered by Grandfather Smed and Grandmother Smoo they are forbidden from seeing each other. Bill and Janet decide to meet up in secret and take off in the Smed family rocket. Discovering them gone it's up to the two grandparents to jet off on an adventure to bring them back home. 

One of the elements of making this production a success is its interactivity with the audience. It's very much pantomime with the characters regularly breaking the fourth wall and making contact with the audience. This is key to keeping the young children engaged and those around me seemed engrossed, shouting back, and being transformed by the story. 

Althea Burey and Dan Armstrong. Photo - Tall Stories.

There's a great cast of 4 actors who all magnificently characterise each role. Dan Armstrong's Bill and Althea Burey's Janet are full of youthful energy as the two literally star-crossed lovers, they create a likable pair that is the heart of the production. Both also switch to play relations in the opposite families. Tim Hibbered's Grandfather Smed and Angela Laverick's Grandmother Smoo are engaging and brilliant, you warm to them more and more as the piece moves on. Both also narrate the story.

Barney George's playful and inventive design is clever in transforming a fairly small space into different locations using various props that rotate or open up to allow them to be different from what you first see. Peter Harrison's lighting further creates the landscape of the adventure as we hop from planet to planet.

As ever with Tall Stories there's excellent puppetry, designed by Yvonne Stone we get an array of aliens and creatures from planets along the adventurous path we travel on. All of which are puppeteered well by the cast.

There are some toe-tapping musical numbers that once again encourage the children (and the adults) to join in on. With choreography by Julia Cave and the music and lyrics by Jon Fiber and Andy Shaw all of whom clearly know their target audience and nail the movement and score that appeals to the children and has them out of their seats and dancing along at times.

At the heart, this is a beautiful story about accepting those around you, regardless of your background or your differences. It's a lovely message to take away from an uplifting performance. Not a journey you'll want to miss. Perfect family viewing.

Rating - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Smeds and The Smoos continues at Curve until December 31st and tours through till April. Head to Curve's website for tickets or to the Tall Stories website for more information.

Angela Laverick and Tim Hibberd. Photo - Tall Stories

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