The Coach House, Malvern


Enid Blyton was the most prolific and successful children’s writer of all time. She published more than 700 books, let alone poems, plays and manifold magazine articles - a staggering life achievement. Her following was huge for much of her lifetime, she was a Pied Piper who knew how to write stories that were popular with children. However, she was hugely controversial, both in her lifetime and even more so today.

So many of her stories were fantasies in which children enjoyed wonderful adventures, independent of adult leadership. ‘Fantasies are easier to deal with than adults', in her adventures children were confronting stereotypical ‘baddies’ and they always won: the ‘baddies were arrested and met their comeuppance.
Other stories for the younger children surrounded toy characters like Noddy and Big-Ears with their bright cars and adventures. The children and their parents loved them; even when libraries refused to stock her books, the parents bought them anyway and all this multiplied her wealth and success.
She was a writer of her time. Modern ‘woke’ Britain cannot tolerate writings that would now be considered racist, elitist, sexist and reflective of a past that embarrasses modern sensibilities. Would the banks choose to close her accounts today?

noddy book

The first Noddy book from 1949, still in print and selling 74 years later

The play is basically a monologue delivered by the character of Enid Blyton herself. She recounts her life story: her childhood , the impact of her parents’ separation and divorce, her early teaching career, her escape into the world of her writing, her success, her marriages, and ultimately her loss of focus and ability to concentrate as she grew old with dementia.

A lot of the play she is defending herself against her critics, especially in the second act. In reality she comes across as a rather hurt and tortured individual who struggles with the adult world, but has a profound understanding of how children tick and what they enjoy in terms of a story and adventure.

Having struggled to get pregnant, she eventually has two daughters who scarcely enjoy her attention and priority. Her devotion is to her writing and to her children-dominated fan club. The literary and social critics cause her much hurt and provoke her pride and defensive self-justification. 

Liz Grand delivers a great performance as Enid. She has a huge part to learn yet maintains a high level of concentration and manages to portray different aspects of her complex character: she is arrogant, and somewhat vindictive at times, more self-aware at others and ultimately rather pitiable in her declining years when she was developing dementia.

The play (and even the programme) is very informative and interesting though limited in dramatic action and requires the audience to listen attentively and at length. The set is basic: the toy characters create a nursery atmosphere, but some changes at the interval would have added variety and interest.

This production evokes in the audience considerable admiration for the phenomenal output and achievements of Enid’s writing career, some sympathy for her harsh and snobbish treatment by her critics, some respect for her charitable work and the positive morality in her stories,, though little warmth for her as a person.

The production will be touring from the end of September.

Timothy Crow


Enid Blyton Noddy Big Ears and Lashings of Controversy returns to the Coach House Theatre, 1-2 December 2023

The Coach House Theatre  On a Role Theatre Company

Index page Reviews A-Z Reviews by Theatre