Review: The Gruffalo's Child, Athenaeum Theatre

Isabelle Oderberg

The set design for The Gruffalo's Child is very simple but effective. There’s also lots of participation required from the kids including calling out, singing and dancing.
Review: The Gruffalo's Child, Athenaeum Theatre

Madison Hegarty, Skyler Ellis and Jade Paskins in The Gruffalo's Child. Photo via CDP.

After seeing The Gruffalo with Mr 2.5 earlier this year, he hadn’t stopped talking about the upcoming The Gruffalo’s Child, for which he’d spotted the poster on our way out of the Athenaeum Theatre.  

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Readying for the show in the morning was difficult – he kept running around the living room screaming 'BIG BAD MOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSE'. 

After taking our seats, the production kicked off on a slightly deflating note when the first scene was stopped about five minutes in to fix a technical issue with the microphones.  

But kids being kids they barely noticed and we were off and running again with just as much steam as round one.  

Madison Hegarty takes the role of the narrator and later, the little brown mouse. Jade Paskins plays the Gruffalo’s child and Skyler Ellis plays The Gruffalo and pretty much everyone else.  

Ellis has the meatiest role and makes the most of it, with characterisations that hark back to the first instalment of the story; including the Spanish, flamenco dancing snake, the fuddy duddy ex-serviceman owl and a smarmy, spivvy fox.  He does a great job jumping from role to role and entertaining both kids and carers alike.  

Madison Hegarty puts in a solid performance in the role of mouse and has a lovely singing voice. Paskins is very cute in her role as the baby monster, in her first role out of drama school. It wouldn’t hurt however to make The Gruffalo’s Child characterisation slightly ‘bigger’ and the aggressive moments slightly more, well, aggressive. The Gruffalo’s child might be a child, but she’s still a Gruffalo, after all.  

In terms of scripting, there are some hilarious adult references that fly straight over the heads of the kiddies, but keep the adults entertained, including lovely usage of the line 'this is my dance space, that is your dance space' during the stickly ballroom (intentional) scene. 

The set design is very simple but effective and there’s also lots of participation required from the kids including calling out, singing and dancing.  

The grand finale scene, featuring the appearance of the aforementioned Big Bad Mouse, proved slightly too scary for Mr 2.5 and brought on a little case of the shakes, though to be fair he's just under the 3 years and up age range suggestion. He still begged to come back and watch it again another day.  

While attendance at the theatre the day we were there was a little sparse, that may only be because we got in just before the school holidays started. If your kids are Gruffalo kids, get buying your tickets asap.  

3 stars ★★★ 

The Gruffalo’s Child
Presented by CDP with Tall Stories 
Based on the award-winning picture book by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler 

11-22 December 2018
Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

A veteran journalist, Isabelle Oderberg is a comedy fanatic and has been reviewing comedy for six years. She also reviews restaurants, opera and theatre.