Inspired by a Lewis Carroll poem of the same name, The Hunting of the Snark is a loud, colourful and uplifting children’s musical that never stops short of having fun, both on stage and with its audience.
It’s a splendid tale of derring-do beset with lovably weird creatures and a horrifyingly loathsome Butcher, yet at its core is a heart-warming lesson in morality.
Quite an accomplishment for a performance that lasts an all too short 70 minutes and one that is entertaining for the whole family while playing at The Lowry in Salford.
The instantly catchy opening number Breaking News is the first of many tunes that leaves you humming and singing long after the curtain falls, with Find One Tomorrow being the standout.
The opening song starts off the adventure as the Banker and his Boy decide to go and find the mythical Snark, a creature so rare that it would be worth millions of thousands of dollars.
The number captures the essence of the whole show perfectly as the ensemble sing with lightbulb microphones, dance around in explorers’ outfits from the 1920s and record videos with iPhones.
It’s totally barmy, which, of course, is the point.
LAUGHS: The production is fun for the whole family
This is also the show at its most sensible as what follows is a cacophony of colour wrapped up in a whirlwind of wonderfully wacky antics.
At the heart of which are Ben Galpin (the Bellman/Jubjub) and Will Bryant (the Baker/Bandersnatch) who take on multiple roles that provide most of the show’s best humour.
Simon Turner excels in his role as the Banker, who starts out as a distanced and money-loving dad but learns over the course of the adventure what it means to be a father.
Polly Smith is full of snarling menace as the Butcher and her malevolence drew the most effective parts of audience participation as she hunted the heroes across Snark Island.
Rounding out the cast is Jordan Leigh-Harris, whose soft, sweet and innocent portrayal of the Boy gives the show its moral compass as she expertly guides the audience through all the trials and tribulations our heroes face.
Oh, there’s also a hat-knitting Beaver, who is arguably the most fantastic member of the whole crew as the Boy notes ‘you can do anything if you’ve got a beaver’.
COLOURFUL: There’s never a dull moment for 70 minutes
The cast, in turn, take control of the puppet, inflecting such a layered personality into the Beaver that it makes you forget the puppet isn’t real.
At times the performances goes over the top in terms of silliness but that only further appeals to the youngest members of the audience and I challenge anyone not to laugh when a theatre of five-year-olds are having the time of their lives.
There are also jokes for the older generation with countless fourth wall breaks, including a cracking omelette joke and a meta joke about a touring musical – all of which bring home the laughs.
Yet for all its humour and childish madcappery, The Hunting of the Snark isn’t afraid to go to some dark places.
As has been said, the Butcher is genuinely threatening, the Bandersnatch is a sneaky, creepy thief and the Boojum, well it’s probably best if we don’t mention the Boojum.
This only adds to the scintillating climax as the heroes finally overcome adversity to teach us the true values of love, family and, strangely, conservation.
The older one gets, the harder it is to see the world through the wide-eyed optimism of a child. What makes The Hunting of the Snark so brilliant is that not only does it bring out your most childish impulses, it does so in a way that leaves you with a smile.
It’s an upbeat and enchanting ride that provides laughs and scares for the whole family.