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Babe, The Sheep Pig, The Mercury Theatre, Colchester

by Guest Reviewer Sarah Miles

The Mercury Theatre is once again offering a summer production aimed at children and families.  Babe, The Sheep Pig; a novel written by Dick King-Smith and later adapted into a 1995 film, is this summer’s offering.
This play adaptation is by legendary children’s dramatist David Wood and what an excellent choice it is.
From the outset, the stage curtains are open and so the children are already intrigued by what they see. The set gives an almost cartoon-like image of the farm with its bright colours with an angled farmhouse surrounded by fluffy clouds and tall trees. It is absolutely delightful and captivating to look at.
Babe (previously of Betty Blue Eyes fame), the cute orphan pig is puppeteered expertly by Jonathan Cobb.  His movements are flawless and he works really hard to give Babe real character, and he absolutely succeeds.
Fly the dog, played by Jessica Dyas is excellent as the motherly figure to Babe and the other animals and has real warmth to her performance.  Farmer Hoggett and his wife played by Gareth Clarke and Heather Phoenix are the main ‘humans’ in the play and their characters have some excellent comic moments throughout.
The remaining four cast members Ebony Feare, Rachel Hammond, James Peake and Joseph Tweedle played the remaining characters and animals of the farm.  All of the various animals were played to absolute perfection, the sheep and the cockerel being particular favourites.
In addition to the cast playing the characters, they also played various instruments and sung throughout the play.  It was a great addition to have the instruments there on the stage for the young audience members to see.  The sheer hard work of this cast each performance is outstanding.
There are a few scenes in the play that have a little bit of a darker theme that we were warned about on entrance to the auditorium.  I would suggest that very young children might find a couple of these scenes a little bit scary.  At the end of the play, the audience is invited up onto the stage to meet Babe and the other characters, which is a really nice touch.   The children seemed to thoroughly enjoy seeing the characters up close.
Director Katie Posner has done an excellent job of bringing this farm to life.  This is a heart-warming family show with a few laughs and tears thrown in for good measure.  An absolute must-see for families this summer!
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