The Mouse and his Child
A Christmas show that quotes Samuel Beckett and Jean-Paul Sartre? Well, this is the RSC after all.
Russell Hoban's 1968 children's classic, on which the play is based, seems at first glance to follow in a familiar tradition of bedtime stories. To find their happy home, the clockwork mouse and his child must defy the evil Manny Rat, who dismantles toys cast aside after Christmas.
But the hostile world they enter is a strange one indeed, animated by a hippie fortune-telling frog and a weird avant-garde theatre group of crows, the Caws of Art.
And it's not just friends and a cosy fireside that Hoban's heroes seek, but independence – not as toys, but as self-winding individuals.
Their journey provides a colourful, cacophonous, chaotic spectacle, including a roller-skating pachyderm (the elephant of surprise), an existentialist parrot, and an amazingly-realised underwater scene with golf ball and pond life.
At times it all gets a bit confusing – at which point the terrific on-stage band is usually on hand so everyone can party.
Daniel Ryan as the Mouse and Bettrys Jones as his Child look cute in their Disney-like blue suits, while Michael Hodgson makes a delightfully ugly Rat. Imagine a rodent Richard III.
Director Paul Hunter pulls a few plums from this pudding of a plot – and although the show doesn't capture the magic of RSC hits like Matilda or Robin Hood, there is enough mad jollity to amuse all but the youngest children.
The Mouse and his Child runs until January 12. Tickets 0844 800 1114 or at www.rsc.org.uk.