Winnie the Pooh
Riverside Studios, London, until May 21
Given that most of us can remember whether the shows we saw as children
were any good or not – and I’d imagine mostly stick by those judgments – it’s
as well for theatre makers never to patronise children.
Jonathan Rockefeller gets that entirely with his new musical adaptation of Winnie the Pooh, a joyous explosion of colour, light and good humour that played to a house full of enraptured youngsters – and equally enraptured parents – the day I dropped by.
Real quality in children’s entertainment can always transcend the generations, and everyone involved gives it everything they’ve got, not least Jake Bazel in the title role, at once manipulating the honey-addicted bear and providing him with a rich, flavoursome and thick-set voice. Robbie Noonan, meanwhile, has a lot of fun as Tigger and Alex Cardall is a splendidly lugubrious Eeyore. Piglet and Kanga, meanwhile, are both splendidly played by women – respectively, Lottie Grogan and Chloe Gentles. Christopher Robin put in a somewhat belated but nevertheless charming appearance in the shape of George Menezes Cutts.
My only disappointment was not to see AA Milne’s name on the programme. It is now not his Winnie the Pooh, but Disney’s. The author left one quarter of the earnings of his children’s books to his club, the Garrick, believing it would be the now-forgotten plays he wrote for adults that would be his real legacy. They made the club millions over the years, and then a £40m windfall that capitalised the remaining years of royalty income.
Few, if any, men could ever have entertained more children in their lives, but Milne himself once dolefully admitted: “I am not inordinately fond of or interested in children.”