JUST SO – 4 SEPTEMBER 2004, CHICHESTER

Just So is such a charming show, entertaining for both children and adults alike. The show is based on Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories and we join the ever questioning Elephant’s child as he heads off on a long journey with the Kolokolo bird, on which he encounters a number of animals and they (and we) find out how they gained the distinct features which makes them immediately identifiable

The Chichester Production of Just So is enthusiastically performed, simplistically staged with imaginative costumes ideas using clothing to represent the animals e.g. the rhino in a grey school uniform with an upside down cornet cone for a horn, the heavy grey overcoats of the elephants, the boys on the town ‘look’ for the Jaguar (a la Saturday Night Fever) and Leopard with his 50’s look, the stove with his popcorn saucepan hat and the brightly coloured kolokolo bird.

A number of doors circle the back of the stage, a thin revolve carries the props and the performers on and off and makes the trunk like boats with it’s broom sail travel (with some pedal assisted power aswell). The silky green Limpopo river flows from the back of the stage, Pau Amma the crab’s shell is formed from huge red dustbin lids which totally fill the back of the stage .

The score contains some memorable songs in a variety of musical styles from the poignant ‘Wait a bit’ (as the Kolokolo Bird explains why she is as she is), the comical Parsee and Stove with the Paresee Cake Cake-Walk (with unique cooking ingredients), the lilting ‘Limpopo River’, the thoughtful ‘Does the moment ever come ?’ as the Elephant’s child reflects on his journey and the upbeat ‘Take the ladies out’ as the Jaguar and Leopard get ready for an evening out with the Giraffe and Zebra. All the songs are performed excellently with energy, emotion and with wonderful character.

The cast is headed by Richard Dempsey (the ever questioning Elephant’s Child who doesn’t always think before he blunders on ahead) and Julie Atherton (the very down to earth – spade is a spade Kolokolo bird forever hiding her true self). Richard energetically bounded around the stage as the questioning Elephant’s child inadvertently causing more harm than good at times. Julie was great as the bird lacking in self confidence, but the seemingly reluctant travelling companions learn the true nature of friendship.

Simon Greif and Dean Hussain were excellent as the slightly dopey ‘penny short of a farthing’ leopard and the sleak ‘ladies man’Jaguar (the boys out on the tiles)

Alexia Owen Hobbs and Akiya Henry were the good time handbag dancing duo Giraffe and Zebra. Ahmet Ahmet was the very comic as the Parsee man, unable to cook without his faithful stove. The company numbered only 13 but they played so may parts from the boring ‘Birmingham accented’ Wildebeest to Wannabie Wallabies and cooking ingredients and created the sound as though there were many more.

Just So is fun, witty, entertaining and has a wonderful charm,. If only this production could go on tour as it deserves to be seen beyond CHichester

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