Seuss With Sass: The Lorax Reviewed

The Lorax at The Old Vic ★★★★☆

By Rosalind Stone Last edited 29 months ago
Seuss With Sass: The Lorax Reviewed The Lorax at The Old Vic 4
Ben Thompson (Puppeteer), Laura Cubitt (Puppeteer), Simon Lipkin (The Lorax) and Simon Paisley Day (Once-Ler). Photo by Manuel Harlan.

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not." You’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled into the closing moments of the UN Climate Change conference, as we watch the last Truffula seed blossom into a tiny tree and our hearts swell with eco-friendly resolutions. This is the first staged version of The Lorax — Dr Seuss’s rhyming reprimand regarding our interaction with nature, and its relevance has snowballed since its publication in 1971.

The Once-ler (Simon Paisley Day) comes from a clan of green-haired hard-grafters, with sharp knitting needles and sharper tongues. He befriends the Lorax, a bushy-bearded beaver (a three-man puppet, voiced by Simon Lipkin), but conflict is inevitable when he begins felling the Lorax’s beloved trees to knit a lumpen, multi-purpose garment he calls the "thneed".

David Grieg’s adaptation is as heart-warming as it is anti-global-warming — a thrilling physicalisation of Seuss’s illustrations. The total synthesis of Rob Howell’s design with Max Webster’s direction and Finn Caldwell’s puppetry dissolves the boundaries between page and stage, and indeed puppet and actor. The Swomee Swans Brown Bar-ba-loots and Humming Fish evince zero awareness of their magnificence, leaving us spellbound and invested in their survival.

Howell’s constantly-evolving set catapults us into different physical perspectives: we glance over the tops of the telescopically-trunked Truffula trees, then meet the Once-ler at the desk of his ever-expanding factory, which agglomerates in miniature on a table-top before we arrive outside its gates.

They cavort to some twinkly numbers by Noah and the Whale frontman Charlie Fink, who exhibits a thneed-like versatility in his first stage score, encrypting his melodies with potential comic moments. Belting out a perfectly-hit high note that seems to go on forever, lawyer VonGoo (Melanie La Barrie) rolls her eyes and checks her watch — this is Seuss with sass. A window into a world of dazzling creativity: grasp the positive intentions and feel-good vibes firmly as you head into Waterloo.

4 December-16 January, The Old Vic, tickets £12-£60.

Londonist saw this production on a complimentary ticket

Last Updated 18 December 2015

Adam MacLean

Nice review! I'm sad the run's so short. Hoping they might extend it...?