This 29 October to 3 November, fans of the beloved monster Gruffalo will be in for a treat as Tall Stories’ West End production of The Gruffalo comes Penang. Brought to Malaysia by Gardner & Wife Theatre and staged at the Performing Arts Centre of Penang, or penangpac, this production of The Gruffalo has delighted young children and adults all over the world as it has toured the UK, Germany, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.
In this PenTAS exclusive, we talk to one of the three casts of The Gruffalo – Tim Richey, who does a whole lot of acting and a fair amount of narrating. Born in Cheltenham in the UK, Richey is an actor who likes to paint and cites ‘pottering around’ as a hobby, which explains how he manages to juggle handling three roles (we will let you discover which ones for yourself) in The Gruffalo.
What do you enjoy most about you roles in The Gruffalo?
I love the fact that I get to play so many different characters (I have a lot of costume changes!) Plus seeing the audience’s reaction when the Gruffalo first comes on stage is always a treat!
What is the most exciting aspect for you in this production?
Snake sings a great song which always goes down a treat.
Is this the first time you as part of a production that is performing in Malaysia?
How has your experience in Malaysia been so far?
It’s been fantastic – lots to see and do and everyone has been so welcoming. When we left the UK it was cold and grey, so it’s been lovely to have a bit of sun. The food has been great too.
Is there a difference between adult and young (children) audience?
The children love all the slapstick humour but there are loads of jokes that the adults get too. The children are great during the audience participation parts – they are definitely louder than the adults! The show works on lots of different levels and so should be fun for everyone – whatever their age!
Why is theatre for children important? How does exposure to theatre and performing arts affect children?
There are huge benefits for audiences of all ages in going to see theatre. In a world full of screens and computer generated 3D backdrops, young audiences really benefit from being told a fabulous story in a communal and interactive way. In the theatre, the performers can talk directly to their audience and the audience can talk right back. In The Gruffalo, the audience are at points encouraged (but never forced!) to shout out and join in so they get to experience something live and interactive. This immediacy is something theatre can do that cinema never can.
Theatre also provides young audiences with a chance to let their imaginations run wild. A stick can be turned into the bars of a cage, a cricket bat or a tightrope and a man can play a boy, a woman or a parrot – watching that kind of transformation happen in front of your eyes can be magical – for both young and grown up audiences.
Personally, which was your favourite theatre production that you enjoyed when you were young?
I remember seeing Cats in London when I was about 8 and spent most of the following weeks pretending to be a cat.
What’s next for you? Do you have another project lined up?
After Malaysia we head to Paris for a few days with the show and then we open in the West End in London.
Finally, why should parents bring their children to watch Tall Stories’ The Gruffalo?
It’s a really imaginative telling of a great story. There’s something for all the family in The Gruffalo – songs, comedy and also a scary Gruffalo! Children who have read the book will love seeing their bedtime reading live on stage and, as the show is aimed at families, we hope the grown-ups will be surprised at how much they enjoy it too.
THE GRUFFALO shows at stage 1, penangpac @ Straits Quay (3H-3A-1, Straits Quay, Jalan Seri Tanjung Pinang, Tanjung Tokong, 10470 Penang) from 29 October – 1 November 2013 @ 10 am and 12:30 pm and 2 – 3 November 2013 @ 2 pm and 5 pm.