The Slightly Annoying Elephant is a wholesome musical performance about the hilarious consequences of adopting an elephant at the zoo. It is based on the children’s book of the same name by David Walliams and illustrated by Tony Ross. London’s award winning Little Angel Theatre has adapted this eccentric story into a play with the help of puppetry at HOME theatre, Manchester. This absurd and funny play will bring enjoyment to both the old and the young.
Heidi Goldsmith plays the role of the young protagonist Sam and skilfully displays the nativity of a young child through her innocent facial expressions and body movements. In addition, she convincingly switches between multiple diverse side characters by changing her vocal quality, accent and body language. Her voice is like honey, and she sings with a clear voice.
Alex Bloomer expertly controls the impressively structured elephant puppet and stays in character throughout the performance. His face becomes visibly covered with sweat during the performance, as he carries the large puppet and performs many physically strenuous dancing numbers. He must also often rapidly enter and exit the scene, while Goldsmith almost never leaves the stage. However, Bloomer competently sings and speaks with a calm, composed voice throughout the play and does not reveal his fatigue.
The acting is whimsical and exaggerated, which suits the play’s childlike and naïve atmosphere. The performance never attempts to be believable, but rather to transport the audience to a fantastical alternate reality where the common and the impossible coexist. Goldsmith and Bloomer have great chemistry with each other; they both execute many delightful singing and dancing numbers smoothly without errors. The two performers display good teamwork as Goldsmith often helps Bloomer to control his puppet by helping to move its long trunk or its feet.
The prop and set design were colourful and complemented the cheerful atmosphere of the play. Both the set and costumes closely resembled the illustrations in the original book. The stage was designed like a simple common room and kitchen. Most of the props onstage were actively used by the performers and contributed to the development of the plot. Bloomer often entered and exited the stage and he helped to discreetly bring new props on to the stage. Due to the rapid and vigorous movements of the performers, some props were fixed onstage out of necessity.
The star of this production was the beautifully constructed elephant puppet. It was both spectacular and practical. There were accessible handholds behind the large ears for easy manoeuvring, and the ears were magnetically fastened on the head, making them easy to remove and reattach when the need arises.
A person at the back of the theatre controlled the lighting and sound effects in the play. Lighting was used subtly to draw attention to certain parts of the stage. The musical was playful and simple and suitably comical sound effects accompanied the performance.
The Slightly Annoying Elephant is a well-produced family show and ran at the HOME Theatre from the 5th of December to the 29th of December.