The SJT has gone music mad. In the McCarthy there’s the duet of Cox and Box and now in the Round comes this musical treatment of an Ayckbourn classic, The Boy who Fell into a Book. The essential secret the plays share is: create the right tone and the audience will go with you, wherever you want to take them.
This case stars 10-year-old Kevin (there’s something about that name – see The Time Bandits and a bunch of others). He takes us on a dazzling trip through his own bookshelf, accompanied by his literary hero Rockfist Slim. The set up is brilliantly managed and Evelyn Hoskins puts in a stellar turn as Kevin, a performance whose sheer charm would melt the hardest heart. Nicolas Colicos as Rockfist is a splendid foil, all hard-boiled cynicism and suspicion. Their journey through time and space is a delightful evocation of the magic of childhood filled with scary, lovable and just plain irritating characters.
The story is perfect for a musical treatment and the songs here are clever, witty and moving. Perhaps the sentimental story means they have to sit squarely within the musical theatre tradition, but it would have been interesting to hear some pushing of the boundaries – a rap duet between Kevin and Rockfist would surely have sparked. (Cox and Box neatly shows how you can present a musical and subvert it at the same time.)
The lack of young people in the audience might mean this is being aimed at people whose childhood is long gone. But the play is too good for that and could be a great vehicle for getting children into the theatre.
The Boy who Fell into a Book runs to to 31 August; check sjt.uk.com for details