B2 Belgrade Theatre, Coventry


Honk! is a joy. It is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s Ugly Duckling story and I’m sure he would be proud that his tale has been given such imaginative, witty and resourceful treatment.

Ida Duck (Ellie Nunn) is sitting on her brood of duckling eggs. One egg troubles her; it is significantly larger than the rest and takes longer to hatch. (I loved her song about the joys of motherhood incorporating tap-dancing!).

The biggest egg finally hatches and the duckyard occupants aren’t that impressed. They simply call him Ugly (Gregor Duncan). Mother of the House (Emma Barclay) tells Ida that he must go.

Duckyard cat and villain of the piece (James Dangerfield) thinks he would make a really tasty lunch and lures him away. Mum Ida is distraught and spends six months looking for him through all weathers. Drake (Chris Thomson) and the ducklings, inventively engineered puppetry with yellow umbrellas, are left behind.

Ugly and the ducklings are given brilliant advice by Ida – and cat’s mum has advised cat too. Anyone who has a cat will recognise these – shred the cushions and make sure you play with your food before you eat it!


Ugly meets a variety of animals who advise on how to live his life. I particularly loved the funny frog (Peter Noden) and the gorgeous buggy-eyed frogettes. Finally, Ugly meets Penny (Danni Payne) a beautiful swan who knows instantly what he is and invites him to join their migration flight to the sun.

It is a clever re-imagining of a well-known story with layers and layers of topical message underneath and, as audience, we are left to our own devices to work these out. The music (George Stiles)is wonderful, the cast are brilliant singers and dancers, there are musicians on stage, two violinists in the cast too and the Olivier Award 2000 strongly deserved. This is a great family show and the families spotted around me seemed engrossed as the story unfolded.

This is a great production with a strong cast. There are some actors who dominate the stage purely by charisma and Ellie Nunn as Ida is one of these. Whatever your age, this is really worth seeing as a truly memorable piece of theatre.

With Book and lyrics Anthony Drewe and directed by Andy Room, Honk! will be quacking on to 08-06-19.

Jane Howard


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