Menu

The Elephantom at New London Theatre – Review

Elephantom

Elephantom

Does your child have an imaginary friend? Let’s say they were more playful, destructive, cranky and mischievous than all the characters in The Muppets put together.

And that they were huge. And blue.

Then, you’d have The Elephantom.

Ben Power’s National Theatre adaptation of the Ross Collins book, playing at the New London Theatre until 6 September, begins with eerie lighting, some sultry brass parps bursting through a gloomy soundscape, and a little girl (Susan Harrison) who is roundly ignored by her self-absorbed parents.

Critics from The Guardian have drawn comparisons between The Elephantom and David McKee’s Not Now Bernard (which I’ve also reviewed on this site). And, although the similarities are unmistakeable (parents who are too busy and preoccupied to spend time with their child, or to notice when they’re in trouble), to me The Elephantom was a richer, more complex story. Like a Famous Five adventure (where children face peril without any assistance from parents), only with the five children whittled down to one. And, for good measure, incorporating a strong Potteresque element of supernatural and magic.

When the elephantom appears in the girl’s bedroom one night, after some trepidation the girl greets him as friend, and the two dance joyously together (I found this part so moving – at last, the lonely girl had found a friend – that it brought tears to my eyes. Sadly, it also had a similar effect on the three-year-old sitting next to me, who howled with terror at the blue spectre bulging and trumpeting on stage).

But the big blue elephant reveals himself to be not a cheering companion but a frenemy, of the pesky troublemaker kind: he wrecks the house, tries to pour a scalding hot pot of tea over the mother’s head, and invites a load of ele-friends round for a house party in what must be the most glorious, rumbustious dance sequence ever known to puppetry.

The mood of the show changes dramatically with each different set; no more so than when Granny arrives, and accompanies the girl on a visit to the macarbre shop, Spectral & Sons, to find out more about her unwelcome (and increasingly over-inflated) new houseguest. The solution to her problem lies in a natural remedy which brings the show to an uproariously comedic close, with audience members left wondering whether they’ll run into a exiled blue elephant when they emerge onto the West End streets.

It’s likely that some children at the lower end of the age range (3+) will be overwhelmed by the sight of a massive blue elephant-balloon, accompanied by a score that beautifully conveys the sense of wonder, joy, and yes, danger, that the appearance of the elephantom brings. It was clearly all a bit much for the howling girl sitting next to me in the auditorium. But I was accompanied by a party of seven children, ranging in age from two-and-a-half to five, and they all thoroughly enjoyed the show, despite the odd frisson of fear. An hour is a long time for a three-year-old to sit in one place, but only a little bit of wriggling and seat-kicking occurred (among our gang, at least). And we grown-ups were able to marvel at the beauty and mastery of the puppetry, and guffaw at the sight of several seven-foot, tutu-clad elephants bopping along to MC Hammer’s You Can’t Touch This.

The Elephantom is a larger-than-life, skilfully crafted Summer blockbuster of a show. It’s a grand spectacle, well worth a look before it closes in September.

Disclosure: we were invited to a preview show of The Elephantom. But all views expressed are my own.

7 Comments

  • Tracy Angus
    July 8, 2014 at 9:28 am

    This sounds great, we are planning a trip to the capital this summer, this could make it on the itinerary!

    Reply
  • The Diary Of A Jewellery Lover
    July 8, 2014 at 2:21 pm

    This sounds really great. I wish I had some little ones so I could go!

    Reply
  • Michelle Twin Mum
    July 8, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    Sounds good, I was invited to this but sadly I just live too far nowadays. Thanks Mich x

    Reply
  • Michelle Murray
    July 9, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    I love the theatre. Sounds great but too far for us 🙁 popping over from http://www.mummy2monkeys via #LAB

    Reply
  • Phi @ The Sweetphi Blog
    July 9, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    I love this review! Wish it were playing here in the US so I could take my little goddaughter to see it!

    Reply
  • Aly
    July 10, 2014 at 9:51 am

    Oh that does look awesome! I know what you mean about fidgety kids, my 6 year old was terrible going to the cinema when she was 3.I wish performances like this came to our neck of the woods.

    Reply
  • Penny A Residence
    July 18, 2014 at 9:11 am

    A London friend reviewed this for me on my site, I would love to see it and I love that the multi age group you took all loved it! The Elephant looks and sounds awesome.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.