Heartbreak Productions’ outdoor adaptation of David Walliams’ story Mr Stink was a breath of fresh air despite the rather windy conditions.
Mr Stink is a malodorous wandering tramp who wears a long coat and is quite partial to sausages.
Chloe Crumb has few friends and an overbearing mother and escapes when writing one of her exciting stories. Eventually, tramp and twelve year old meet on a bench and form a friendship where they beat the school bullies and do some fantastic freestyling to Uptown Funk.
Howard Scott Walker as the enigmatic Mr Stink was a noble moral guide when imparting some advice about bullies and just being yourself. His eyes twinkled and silver beard radiated wisdom.
Chloe subsequently invites Mr Stink to secretly stay in the garden shed. Confrontation and some media attention inevitably and entertainingly ensue when he is discovered around Chloe’s sister’s birthday party.
Sickeningly sweet younger sibling Anabelle (played by Georgie Hull) screeched and stomped on stage appropriately. Lily Carrie as mother Crumb was suitably shrill, a staunch supporter of Waitrose, crème fraiche and sea bass; ardently defending her middle class sensibilities in a bid to keep up appearances and run for office with a peg on her nose. Vote Crumb. Or Crooomb, in her words.
Bunting and balloons were scattered around the set and surrounding Alnwick Gardens and audience members were invited to play croquet in between acts.
Party bags accompanied programmes as bubbles drifted across the lawn in a playful flourish. Elsewhere, songs penned by Derry Pope required some family participation and ensured that this production appealed to all.
As the play reached its conclusion, the moment the silhouetted vagabond wandered into the shadows clutching his beloved dog Duchess while snatching backward glances to the now happier family was tinged with sadness. You couldn’t help but wish for a more hopeful ending when his
devastating past was revealed and he scuffled away. ‘This isn’t a story, this is real life’ Mr Stink confided to Chloe.
Although David Walliams’ children’s tale is entertaining and certainly raw, it simply lacks the levity of Roald Dahl’s work which is absurdly quirky, and although dark at times always remains warm as a result which Walliams doesn’t entirely achieve.
Despite moments of bleakness, Heartbreak Productions’ adaptation of Mr Stink is nonetheless a fun and family appropriate production where there is more than meets the eye (or nose), admirably advocating tolerance and embracing difference.