THE GRUFFALO

Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna, Auckland

30/09/2016 - 03/10/2016

Opera House, Wellington

06/10/2016 - 08/10/2016

Expressions Arts & Entertainment Centre - Upper Hutt, Wellington

09/10/2016 - 09/10/2016

Regent On Broadway, Palmerston North

12/10/2016 - 12/10/2016

TSB Showplace, New Plymouth

29/10/2016 - 30/10/2016

Production Details



Oh help! Oh no! It’s the Gruffalo!  

After sell-out seasons throughout the world, The Gruffalo returns to New Zealand in 2016!  

Join Mouse on an adventurous journey through the deep, dark wood in this big scary monster of a show and let your imagination run wild with songs, laughs and fun for children.

Mouse can scare hungry animals away with tall stories of the terrifying Gruffalo, but what happens when she comes face to face with the very creature she imagined?

Whether their favourite food is roasted fox, owl ice cream, scrambled snake or Gruffalo crumble, audiences eat up this delectable tale about the adventures of a clever little mouse in a forest full of predators.

The Gruffalo is based on the award winning picture book by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler, published by Macmillan Children’s Books.

Songs, laughs and fun for children aged 3+, and their adults.
“exudes charm, fun and a winning simplicity” Dominion Post
“the cast of three bring the story to wonderful life… This is an irresistibly charming tale told with refreshing simplicity” The Times, London
[Details & reviews of the 2010 NZ tour here]

2016 tour

KERIKERI: Turner Centre | Saturday 24 September
Book at www.turnercentre.co.nz (09) 407 0260

WHANGAREI: Forum North | Monday 26 September
Book at Ticketek 0800 842 538 www.ticketek.co.nz

AUCKLAND (MANUAKU): Vodafone Events Centre | Tuesday 27 & Wednesday 28 September
Book at TicketDirect 0800 224 224 www.ticketdirect.co.nz

AUCKLAND (TAKAPUNA): Bruce Mason Centre | 30 September to 3 October
Book at Ticketmaster 0800 111 999 www.ticketmaster.co.nz

WELLINGTON: Opera House | 6-8 October
Book at Ticketek 0800 842 538 www.ticketek.co.nz

UPPER HUTT: Expressions Arts & Entertainment Centre | Sunday 9 October
Book at TicketDirect 0800 224 224 www.ticketdirect.co.nz 

PALMERSTON NORTH: Regent on Broadway | Wednesday 12 October
Book at TicketDirect 0800 224 224 www.ticketdirect.co.nz 

NAPIER: Municipal Theatre | Friday 14 & Saturday 15 October
Book at Ticketek 0800 842 538 www.ticketek.co.nz

ROTORUA: Civic Theatre | Wednesday 19 October  
Book at Ticketmaster 0800 111 999 www.ticketmaster.co.nz

HAMILTON: Claudelands Arena (Theatre Mode) | Friday 21 & Saturday 22 October
Book at Ticketek 0800 842 538 www.ticketek.co.nz

TAURANGA: Baycourt Theatre | Tuesday 25 October
Book at Ticketek 0800 842 538 www.ticketek.co.nz

TAUPO: Great Lake Centre | Thursday 27 October
Book at Ticketek 0800 842 538 www.ticketek.co.nz

NEW PLYMOUTH: TSB Showplace | Saturday 29 & Sunday 30 October
Book at Ticketmaster 0800 111 999 www.ticketmaster.co.nz

NELSON: Theatre Royal | Thursday 3 November
Book at TicketDirect 0800 224 224 www.ticketdirect.co.nz | SOLD OUT

BLENHEIM: ASB Theatre Marlborough | Saturday 5 November
Book at TicketDirect 0800 224 224 www.ticketdirect.co.nz 

ASHBURTON: Ashburton Trust Event Centre | Tuesday 8 November
Book at TicketDirect 0800 224 224 www.ticketdirect.co.nz

CHRISTCHURCH: Isaac Theatre Royal | 10-12 November
Book at Ticketek 0800 842 538 www.ticketek.co.nz 

DUNEDIN: Regent Theatre | Tuesday 15 November
Book at TicketDirect 0800 224 224 www.ticketdirect.co.nz

INVERCARGILL: Civic Theatre | Thursday 17 November | Book at TicketDirect 0800 224 224 www.ticketdirect.co.nz


CDP Associate Director New Zealand /Australia: Liesel Badorrek
Music & lyrics by Jon Fiber & Olivia Jacobs
Additional music & lyrics by Robin Price & Andy Shaw
Music production by Jon Fiber & Andy Shaw for Shock Productions
Designer Isla Shaw
Original Lighting Design James Whiteside


CAST (in alphabetical order)
Joshua Cramond: Gruffalo / Narrator
Cole Jenkins: Predators / Narrator
Kalyani Nagarajan: Mouse 


CREW:
Sharna Galvin Company Stage Manager)
Marshall Bull (Assistant Stage Manager)


Theatre , Family , Children’s ,


Inventively told with delight, energy and skill

Review by Holly Shanahan 31st Oct 2016

It would be easy to go wrong adapting such an iconic children’s book for the stage, but Tall Stories do a slick job of creating a simple and energetic adaptation of The Gruffalo.

With only three performers, and a simple set and costumes, the dark wood and its inhabitants are brought to life with narration, stylistic movement, song, chorus and physicality.

The show fleshes out the characters from the book while retaining the original narration to move the story along at points. Mouse (Kalyani Nagarajan) is on the hunt for a hazelnut in the deep dark wood, where she meets a crafty fox, an airforce owl and a saucy spanish rattlesnake. She cunnigly scares them off with a tale of the ‘Gruffalo’ she is meeting in the forest. But, as you might expect, one must be careful what one wishes for!

The dark woods’ sinister inhabitants are all brought to life with basic costume changes and diverse physicality by Cole Jenkins. Josh Cramond acts as a cheeky narrator and eventually as the gruff and growly Gruffalo.

The use of movement is incredibly inventive and fun, a complex task for the performers under some excellent physical direction by Olivia Jacobs. I particularly enjoy their collaborative representations of the Gruffalo, the use of Mouse’s tail, and the ‘shwoosh’es used for focus and punctuation.

Josh Cramond really stands out for me – and my 8 year old sidekick, who says “the Josh guy is my favourite” – with a strong stage presence and playful charm. Cole Jenkins’ snake is another highlight, while Kalyani Nagarajan’s Mouse is suitably mouse-ish. All three are adept physical performers who bring the high energy and commitment demanded of them.

The beginning is a little confusing, but once established in the wood the show runs much more smoothly.  Lots of panto style humour and audience interaction keeps the kids in the audience enthralled – in particular from the Snake, and of course, the Gruffalo himself. One young girl in the front row leaps into her grandparents arms when he comes out to hide in the audience!

I do miss a few of the more magical elements used in children’s theatre, such as musical instruments and puppetry, and feel the lighting is a little lacking on the performers faces; even in a deep dark wood I want to see them a little more clearly.

Despite the physical inventiveness and skill in the storytelling, I feel it may have been a little ‘above’ the age of the audience at times – some moments really hit, while others miss the mark. It is that line between being clever and being clear for a young audience (most of the children are under 5), and I feel the show errs a little on the too clever side to be clear enough for the little ones. While this physical style of theatre is something I love, it isn’t always easy for little ones to follow.

As a whole however, it is an inventive take on the story, told with delight, energy and skill by three very strong actors. Definitely worth taking the little ones to get involved and experience this kind of physical children’s theatre.

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Excellent fun with a valuable message

Review by Jo Hodgson 07th Oct 2016

The award winning Julia Donaldson’s story of The Gruffalo, written in 1999, is obviously just as popular now given the buzzing auditorium full of excited fans at the Opera House and on discovering that this Tall Stories Theatre company’s adaption recently had its 15th year Gruffalo anniversary, my 2 kids and I are looking forward to the treat in store.

The challenge with writing a theatre production out of a picture book is how to take a five minute read-aloud story and turn it into an engaging piece of nearly an hour-long theatre while keeping the original story flowing – which is often known word for word by the audience – and not making it waffle with un-necessary ‘padding out’ of the story line.  

Tall Stories Theatre Company have created a wonderfully entertaining piece of theatre. Not only are we treated to the cleverness of Julia Donaldson’s narrative in 3 D action but the interwoven back story through the songs and added dialogue give us a deeper understanding and connection to the characters – humanising them even more.

A forest location is set with very simple tree set cut-outs, two of which we later discover can house actors and be moved around to comedic effect. The lighting design gives the illusion of the sun filtering through the trees or the night time coming, and the opening scene prepares the audience by assuring us the scary forest isn’t really that scary…. is it? 

The three actors – Josh Cramond (Narrator/Gruffalo) Kalvani Nagarajan (Mouse), and  Cole Jenkins (Fox/Owl/Snake) – bring enormous energy and humour to their roles as they tell the tale of how the little mouse, in a bid to save her own skin, tricks the Fox, Owl and Snake into believing there is a Gruffalo who wants to eat them. But of course “didn’t you know?, there is no such thing as a Gruffalo” until this imaginative creation is manifested for real later in the story and the quick thinking mouse has to figure out an ingenious way to now not become a Gruffalo snack.

The physical theatre is slick and brilliantly timed with precision vocal percussive sound effects that accompany many of the larger than life, pantomimed actions. The dramatic choreography shows the young audience how dexterous the body is at realising the pictorial scenes from the book (no need for visual tech in this show), not only as the individual characters but in building a scaffold of shapes and levels together to physically depict the Gruffalo’s look before we actually see him. I particularly love the ‘terrible jaws’ with the Fox imagining being inside them! 

The songs and characters are clear, each with their repeated dance steps and gestures and musical style to set them apart from the others (especially when being played by the same actor).  

Axel Scheffler’s illustrations are brought to life through uncomplicated and inspired costuming. Rather than trying to replicate the real or imagined creatures, they bring out the identifying features of each animal and the personality of each character.

Kalvani Nagarajan, as the amiable Mouse, shows that being small doesn’t always put you on the easy prey list at the bottom of the food chain; that through thinking outside the box and tapping into that all-important imagination you can outwit even the fiercest creature. She brings the audience into her world with charm and spirit.

Cole Jenkins has the enviable task of bringing to life the three forest predators and does so with absolute style. The crafty English Fox (with traits of the smoothness of Jemima Puddle-Duck’s tweedy friend and a wanna-be wily-ness of Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox), the Scottish Airforce Owl – a pompous and bossy sergeant with dodgy flying skills – and the hilariously vain maraca shaking Mexican Rattlesnake.

Josh Cramond is initially the essential narrative glue and support in the first part of the story before becoming the Gruffalo. He brings a nice mix of pantomime scariness and down-to-earth monster to this character. When appealed to, by the Mouse, to remember his heart he gives us a somewhat poignantly-worded song about what it is to be a Gruffalo who also has hopes and dreams – but, like his Dad and Mum before him – he is a Gruffalo and he has to do what has been passed down through the family. 

This cast carries the young audience through this excellently composed theatre show with its absolute focus on the original story, encouraging us to call out ideas and recite the text in the right places. The fun of the slapstick comedy has us laughing and the chance to join in the tricking of the Fox with Gruffalo roars is accepted with gusto and fills the auditorium.

As with all children’s shows, there is a valuable message: Small doesn’t mean weak and vulnerable, and even the ones who seem big and scary can also be scared. 

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Slick, professional and enjoyable

Review by Leigh Sykes 01st Oct 2016

“I like it already,” my companion (Mr 10 year-old) tells me as he sits down and takes in the venue and the set. It is a simple set, with a few individual (two dimensional) trees, some tree stumps (two of which are big enough for a person to hide behind), and a small group of trees in the centre of the stage at the back. There are sound effects of birds singing, as well as the sounds of lots and lots of excited children. The theatre is full of young people and their accompanying adults, many bringing their own copies of the book or their own toy Gruffalo.   

As for many children growing up in New Zealand, The Gruffalo has been a favourite book for my companion at many bedtimes, and we are both intrigued to see how it will translate onto the stage. 

The short answer is, extremely well. The story is a very well-known one, and the show uses the rhyming couplets from the book to great effect, but then expands on the original story with songs, dances and more interactions between the characters.

Presented by a cast of three (Josh Cramond as Narrator / Gruffalo, Cole Jenkins as Narrator / Fox / Owl / Snake, and Kalyani Nagarajan as Mouse), it becomes clear very early on that there will be lots of character changes, which the cast handles with dexterity.

I really enjoy the physicality and unison work that the performers bring to the show: they are sharp and energetic and deliver a cartoon-like style that works very well for this show and this audience. They create locations and moments of tension with some great physical commitment, and I think this is one of the most successful facets of the show for me.

Nagarajan plays The Mouse as a bundle of energy, and her singing and movement (each new character she meets has its own individual dance moves) are clear, confident and precise. She interacts well with the audience and we are happy to follow her on her journey through the deep, dark wood, where we enjoy her pleasure in tricking the animals she finds there.

Playing all of those animals keeps Cole Jenkins very busy, and the differences he brings to each character are very enjoyable. Fox is a rather tweedy country gent, Owl is a Biggles-like member of the Woodland AirForce Club (with a slightly shaky Scottish accent), but my absolute favourite is his gold-lamé clad, matador-inspired, heavily-accented snake. This snake adores himself, and the audience responds with delight, especially when he is so thoroughly tricked by the ingenious Mouse.

Jenkins has a different song and dance for each character, and he accomplishes both with aplomb. He also interacts well with the audience, and seems to have just as much fun improvising with his fellow cast members.

Cramond narrates much of the first part of the show, while indicating clearly that he will eventually become The Gruffalo, which he does in style. His baritone voice handles the singing with ease, and judging by the squeals from the audience, his looming (he is the tallest of the three performers) presence as The Gruffalo is much appreciated. His foray into the audience is all too brief, but is enough to bring wide smiles to many faces. 

The story unfolds as we know it will, bringing the show to a satisfying conclusion for all concerned. This is a slick, professional and enjoyable production, and to say that I would like to see more opportunities for the audience to really interact with the performers and the story may seem churlish. We are invited to count along, clap along and sing along with the cast, but it feels on occasion that the show performs at the audience rather than truly inviting them in to this magical and eccentric world.

My 10 year-old companion certainly enjoys it, and is captivated by the energy and enthusiasm of the performers. He does, however, feel that it may be much more exciting for those younger than him.  

Judging by the happy chatter and loud applause at the end, he is right, as this is a show that certainly entertains its target (children aged 3+) audience. In this venue it is timed to coincide with the school holidays, and is a safe and fun choice for a holiday theatre outing.

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