Manchester Theatre Awards

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Youth Panel Review: Gargantua

Carl Grose
Lowry Young Actors
The Lowry
13 May 2016

When a small English village is blessed with the birth of a bouncing baby boy, nobody expects the tot to grow quickly into a monstrous gobbler of pensioners and start terrorising the nation. Is the only option a nuclear strike? This rip-roaring show packs in music, laughs aplenty, and several ingenious ways of showing us the havoc wreaked by baby Hugh Mungus as he grows larger and larger. As well as puppetry conveyed via blown-up projections, for instance, there's the tyrannical waving of giant cardboard baby-hands on sticks, and Mrs Mungus's delivery scene under a vast canopy of white hospital sheets.

 

Lowry Young Actors are hilarious at times, particularly Matthew Mantel as the increasingly hysterical General Malahyde, and the spot-on machinations of Brogan Campbell's power-mad businesswoman. The whole company are enjoyably silly, in and out of song, so the story gallops along to its apocalyptic conclusion. The climactic, panicked moment outside the nuclear bunker from a ranting Zoe Armer is especially good.

 

Who knew a play about a gigantic, marauding baby could be so entertaining? Even the set is clever and funny by turns, consisting of decorated cardboard boxes with labels like "baby clothes" and "dummies" which represent everywhere from 10 Downing Street to a secret underground lab. The ancient "spy hiding behind a tree" gag is given new life when the tree in question is painted on yet another box, which the secret agent drops dramatically at a key moment. We get the feeling of everything but the kitchen sink being incorporated into a joke or another fast-paced comic scene. It's skilfully put-together and delivered with aplomb.

Reviewer: Lizz Clark