Sarah Brigham’s Three Billy Goats Gruff is an all-inclusive adaptation of the original tale in a collaboration between Hiccup Theatre and Polka Theatre.
As L’s first theatre trip, the pressure was on to nurture a theatre lover. Guests are welcomed in the foyer of Derby Theatre and taken on an ‘adventure’ to follow in the footsteps of the Billy Goats as you walk from the main theatre to the studio. Excited voices came from all of the smallest visitors as we followed the leader. Once seated in the theatre, the actors came out to say hello, introducing themselves and milling through the audience- this prepared for audience participation and inclusion during the performance, as we were ‘allowed in’ through Check Point Billy. The studio is a snug environment, allowing audiences to feel part of the action. The very youngest visitors may prefer a seat slightly further back; the wide aisle and tiered seating will guarantee they can see.
Those looking for a more traditional tale will be disappointed but those looking for a moralistic, modern story with humour and compassion will be impressed. The tale of The Three Billy Goats is adapted for a modern audience and explores the motivations behind the character’s behaviour- is it all just miscommunication? This is then set inside a greater moral story; a thinking point for the adults in the audience too. The opening to the story invites the audience to pass through ‘Check Point Billy’ to get to the other side but will everyone be welcome?
For those audience members concerned that there might be too much ‘going on’ are in for a welcome treat. The cast integrates BSL, audio description and songs beautifully into the performance. For those in the audience who often have to look to the sides and risk missing the action, the BSL is front and centre, incorporated into everything that the characters do. Alex Nowak (the Middle Billy Goat Gruff) leads the way in teaching the audience how to break down GSL (Goat Sign Language) and TSL (Troll Sign Language). However, from the outset, dance is also incorporated, so the flow feels natural and seamless. The songs, although not the strongest element of the performance, incorporate the audio description and allows the audience to sing along. Humour is incorporated throughout, and Caroline Parker brings a softness to the ‘tough’ Billy Goat, reminding us all that we don’t have to put on mask all the time. Even the Little Billy Goat Gruff puppet signs as she queries how to cross the bridge. Esme Sears embodies the innocence and vulnerability of the youngest goat and leads the way for a more united Troll Land.
Laura Gouldan and Ivan Scott are an excellent team, bringing energy and humour to their characters. Their collaboration as the Troll is hilarious and the timing is spot on for engaging a young audience. The one-hour performance makes full use of the stage with a minimalist set and compliments the actors on stage.
If one were to find fault, a song or two lacked the immediate ear-worm catchability with a few missed notes but this did not detract from a lovely family adventure, with comedy and a welcome panto moment brought by the delightful Mummy Troll. L is certainly looking forward to her next trip!
Three Billy Goats Gruff is playing at Derby Theatre until 31st December. Tickets available here.
Photography throughout from Graeme Braidwood.