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25th Jun, 2022

An elephant to be remembered at the RSC

Ian Hughes 29th Oct, 2021 Updated: 1st Nov, 2021

AN ELEPHANT is said to never forget, and the RSC have created an elephant that audiences will surely not forget in a hurry.

Kate DiCamillo’s best-selling novel The Magician’s Elephant has been adapted into a new family musical by Nancy Harris and Marc Teitler.

Has the RSC got another Matilda on its hands? Probably not, but then this is a very different beast in many ways. Told pretty much entirely in song from beginning to end of the two hours and twenty-five minutes long production, there are no less than 35 songs packed in. They may not be instantly memorable but they do get toes tapping and drive the story along nicely.

The story itself tells of a magician who conjures an elephant from the sky. She comes crashing through the opera house roof of the grief-ridden city of Baltese which is recovering from a recent war. The residents are convinced the elephant is a talisman sent to change their fortunes.

The Sarah Tipple directed production, the first back inside the RST since the pandemic, is as much a feast for the eyes as the ears. The thrust stage is replaced by a standard stage which helps maintain the magic of the elephant itself. When standing in partial shadow it is easy to believe there is a real elephant on the stage. The work of puppetry director Mervyn Millar and the actors inside is nothing less than superb.

But jumbo doesn’t steal this show. She is more than ably supported by a first-rate cast.

Fresh-faced and fresh-voiced young Jack Wolfe, playing orphan Peter Duchene, could slip comfortably into any boy band line-up. He hopes the elephant will lead him to his long lost sister Adele, played with equal gusto by Miriam Nyarko.

Summer Strallen’s Countess Quintet is part Cruella Deville and part Queenie from Blackadder, while her henpecked hubby, played by Sam Harrison, delivers arguably the most amusing of the songs in The Count Who Doesn’t Count.

RSC veteran Forbes Masson is excellent as the ever-truncheon ready Police Chief in charge of a bunch of Keystone-like Cops, who include Mark Antolin’s terrific Leo Matienne.

While narrator Amy Booth-Steel helps keep this fine show very much on the road throughout.

There are also some wonderful dance routines, most notably Elephant Stomp, but judging by the audience reaction it would have been nice to have had a few more.

And there’s even a happy ending for the elephant, which Mr Attenborough, Miss Thunberg and many others would have been pleased to see in these environmentally-worrying times.

The Magician’s Elephant runs until January 1. Visit www.rsc.org.uk for tickets and further details.

 

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