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It's Just So... damn good!



Review by David Munro

JUST So is, as the authors George Stiles and Anthony Drewe explain, inspired by the Just So stories by Rudyard Kipling. There are, therefore, omissions and additions which will not please the purists, but which make this a magical mystical musical.

Anthromorphic animals are not my scene, but, as the authors proved with their earlier success, Honk, actors can portray animals convincingly without resorting to papier-mache masks and other cumbersome costumes.

Anthony Drewe, as director, puts his performers through their paces as though this were an ordinary, everyday musical about people who are really animals and it works.

Richard Dempsey, as the Elephant's Child, whose quest for the Crab who is flooding the earth gives the plot its impetus, is just a lad in a hat. Julia Atherton’s Kokokolo bird is just a girl in a Vivienne Westwood punk dress, and so on...

How this affects the children, if the performance I attended was anything to go by, is to give them delight and wonderment.

The occasional sophistication of the storyline or lyrics does not detract from the fact that the show tells a story to which children, and adults too can relate.

The songs are tuneful, the dances energetic and the performances, while bordering on the pantomimic, still are believable enough to give the show an overall charm it is hard to resist.

The decor and costumes, by Peter McKintosh, are imaginative and cleverly sit on the borderline between reality and fantasy. The Giraffes spots are delineated as brown designs on a lemon coat. The Zebra’s stripes are revealed by pulling strips from a white flounced dress. Art concealing Art.

The 13-strong cast, while having main characters in the storyline, all take turns in the ensemble work and appear to enjoy their work. It is invidious really to single out any particular performance.

Is Andrew Spillet's wonderfully comic Australian Kangaroo any better than Nicolas Colicos’s irascible Rhino? I leave the judgement to you when you go and see it. For see it you must.

I only saw a preview, but if that is anything go by, the final version – should anyone feels more work is required – will be fantastic.

I, personally, wouldn’t touch it, the cast director, choreographer and designer should leave it as it is - Just So; it’s Just So good.

Just So, Book and Lyrics by Anthony Stiles Music by George Stiles; Director, Anthony Drewe; Designer, Peter McKintosh; Choreographer, Stephen Mear; Lighting, Jeff Crofter; Sound, Paul Arditti; Conductor/Music Director, David Shrubsole.
CAST: Junix Inocian; Richard Dempsey; Julie Atherton; Ahmet Ahmet; Steve Elias; Nicolas Colicos; Alexis Owen; Hobbs; Aklys Henry; Dean Hussain; Simon Greiff; Helen Goldwyn; Andrew Spillett; Daniele Coombe.
Chichester Festival Theatre Oaklands Park , Chichester , West Sussex PO19 6AP.
In repertory: April 29 – Sept 25, 2004.
Mon – Sat: 7pm; Mat: Wed, Thurs & Sat: 2pm. Box Office: 01243 781312.

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