Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Elephanton preview

LAST year the team behind the National Theatre's War Horse took a well loved story about a little girl who is visited by a blue elephant and turned it in to a glorious show with puppets, music and dance.The Elephantom was such a success the National has brought it to the West End where it is now playing at the New London Theatre until September 6.
Among its stars is Streatham-based actress Susan Harrison who plays the girl.
"It is the most joyful show," she enthuses when we chat about her involvement.
"The illustrations in the book are beautiful and the show is a fantastic adaptation from the original story.
"We opened at the weekend and the response has been great - there has been a lot of laughter!"
For those who've never read Ross Collins' picture book, The Elephantom is about a little girl who lives with her parents and who likes to draw elephants.
Her parents are career people, wrapped up in each other and don't pay much attention to their daughter or her achievements at school.
That is until the girl begins to dream of elephants and then gets an unexpected visit. Soon their lives are turned upside down by a giant ghost-elephant who is both cheeky and rude and just wants to play.
"The audience really warm to the girl because she is ignored much of the time by her parents," says Susan.
"There is a lot to her and it's been lovely to explore the conflict between her and the elephant, from his arrival to when things start to go wrong and it gets her in to trouble.
"But she has more to her than being a sweet little girl," she adds. "She's courageous in the way she confronts the elephant and she uses her imagination in a way that her parents won't let her do most of the time.
"It shows what amazing adventures you can have if you use a bit of imagination and it's how she empowers herself. It's a lovely message," she says.
So what's it like to be on stage with a gaggle of elephants I ask?
"It's so funny," laughs Susan. "It's all very well choreographed but the puppeteers are so clever in the way they move the elephants - they are all different sizes and can move quite freely.
"At the Shed it was quite a confined space but in this theatre we can go into the audience and run through the aisles so they can touch the elephants."
Working with puppets is not new for Susan though, having been part of the hugely successful Charlie And Lola shows which she performed at theatres including Polka in Wimbledon.
"I have never worked with puppets this big though," she laughs. "However, it's been great fun and I'm really enjoying it - particularly as the story is done without anyone speaking and just told through the movement, sound, dance and music of the actors, puppets and the musician.
"I particularly love the dance sequence when four of the elephants come round to the girl's house for a party.
"They go into the audience and have a boogie. It's very funny and the kids roar with laughter. To hear that is just the best!"

The Elephantom is at New London Theatre until September 6. Tickets from £13. Visit or call the box office on 020 7452 3000.

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