Illyria brought the open air season at Lytham Hall to a happy conclusion with an exuberant and skilled musical staging of Hugh Lofting’s 1920 children’s novel.
The cast are excellently led by Edward Simpson in the title role, commanding the stage and expressive both in tone and movement. The deft puppetry of Nicholas Alexander Lee and Callum Stewart, with Jip the dog and the ever-hungry Gub-Gub the pig, is simply entrancing – shades of Warhorse here.
Artistic director Oliver Gray and Orchestrator Ben Wiles have produced a dozen catchy songs and Illyria newcomers Laura Trundle and Paula Brett take the lead in belting out the tunes, taking the audience with them by their sheer energy.
The many littl’uns in the audience loved Dab Dab the duck, a riot of monkeys and a spectacular shark, as the cast showed tremendous energy manoeuvering and voicing countless animals, culminating in the appearance of the mythical two- headed Pushmipullyu.
Amidst the exuberance there are set some subtle but serious points about the humane treatment of animals and the importance of respect and tolerance.
Hugh Lofting wrote his tales for his children to take their minds off the horrors of war. 100 years on he would surely endorse this entertaining extravaganza.