Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

Top drawer children's entertainment

The Gingerbread Man

Highbury Theatre Centre


IF YOUR little ones are finally getting stir crazy and even bored with that Xbox or you just feel the need to get them out of their room, then The Gingerbread Man could just be the answer.

This delightful Children's play is from an era when ordinary things came to life with imagination rather than those needing batteries and an internet connection.

The play by renowned children's writer David wood was first produced in 1976 and has become an international success with a dozen West End seasons and several national tours.  

The setting is upon an antique kitchen dresser and we find that poor old Herr Von Cuckoo, who lives in the cuckoo-clock, has developed a sore throat, rendering him “cuckoo less”, thereby threatening to land him in the dreaded dustbin. With the help of the newly baked Gingerbread Man and his new friends Salt and Pepper they set out to make him well only to be hampered by the villainous scavenger Sleek the Mouse and The Old Bag. There is a lot of audience participation, humour, action and timely songs and of course in the end they manage to rescue him from his fate and the scrap heap.

It begins with Her von Cuckoo played gently by Jim Worrallo and if you didn't know the play from the outset you would be forgiven for thinking it was a missing number from the musical Cabaret with its surreal and Germanic overtones.


Coming first to the rescue of the afflicted Cuckoo is Salt and Pepper. Heather Johnson seemed to delight in playing the Children's entertainer as Pepper giving great confidence to her opposite Salt, played by Rob Gregory.

Next is the discovery of the Gingerbread man who takes over the energetic form of James Bentley. James seems to have an association with several Theatre groups in the region and he did a great job of adding some youthful action to the play. However a couple of jumps off a quite high section of the set had me concerned for stage ` health and safety' but thankfully he didn't end up in crumbs.

Gina Martin plays The Old Bag, that's a tea bag for those not in the know not a term of derision, with the role of Sleek the Mouse being handled by Barbara Garrett. The pair nicely drew the hisses and boos from the audience with their bitter and slimy antics.

Finally The Big Ones, who are the house owners, were the disembodied voices of Rob and Denise Phillips. The Big ones seemed to be a nice Brummie couple even though I would be highly surprised if there was just one household in the Black Country with a Cuckoo clock.

It might seem an easy task to deliver a children's story like this but it takes a real effort and skill to keep the action going especially from an amateur group. The Gingerbread Man also contains quite a few songs that are not the easiest to deliver that everyone did their best to bring to life.

Christmas theatre across the region has been well attended this year and if you have not had your dose of it yet then take a PG tip from The Old bag and don't get left on the shelf.

A Happy New Year to you all.  To 05-01-13.

Jeff Grant

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