Down on the farm of 1940s England, every bark, bleet and neigh of the barnyard is beautifully brought to life to tell the heart-warming tale of The Crowstarver.
Based on the novel by Dick King Smith, the story follows the curious life of Spider Sparrow – so named because of the way he scuttled about as an infant. Abandoned as a baby on a farmer’s doorstep, Spider, expertly captured by Malcolm Hamilton, is lovingly raised by his surrogate parents who take him in as their own. Despite severe special needs making him slow of speech, Spider reveals a unique ability to communicate with animals and perfectly mimic their calls.
Outcast by the education system but much-loved by the local community, at 13 Spider is given a job Crowstarving – scaring the crows to protect the corn. While out on the farm Spider enjoys his fair share of adventure thanks to his extraordinary relationship with animals, including befriending a visiting fox beautifully performed by some captivating puppetry.
As you might expect, this production shares much of the enchanting farmyard feel as Babe, the film version of King Smith’s The Sheep Pig.
Like Babe, the animals provide the real magic to this production, each creatively represented by the cast of five as they transform themselves from human, to dog, to horse, to tom cat. Just like Spider, the actors’ animal mimicry is superb, Derek Frood’s buttock slapping is an uncanny representation of a dog’s wagging tail as is communal thigh patting for a flock of crows flying overhead.
The golden glow resonating from the stage, ambient violin music and the distant cuckoo calls all fill the theatre with the warmth of a summer’s day in the countryside. For Frood's animal mimickery alone this is an makes this is extremely watchable production but the warmth of Dick King Smith’s story gives it an uplifting quality perfect for all the family. Bizarrely however, there’s no under eights allowed.