Enid Blyton - Noddy, Big Ears and Lashings of Controversy UK Tour Review
Fri 01 Dec 2023 - Sat 16 Nov 2024
For many of us, Enid Blyton's books from Noddy
to The Famous Five and Faraway Tree
played a big part in our childhood. While the lovable characters and adventurous escapism were loved by the under-10s, her work wasn't such a hit with critics and teachers.
This fascinating one-woman play is on tour and gives an insight into the no-nonsense writer from her perspective as she addresses her haters. I caught it at the cosy Coach House Theatre in Malvern, where it was on a two-night stop until December 2. The UK tour continues from March 2024 returning to the Midlands in Lichfield, Evesham and Henley-In-Arden along with London's Enfield, Middlesborough and the Lake District(see dates below).
Written by Kit Hunter, it's a detailed autobiographical piece with impressive Liz Grand playing stern Blyton in a pencil skirt and jumper. She moves about a set that looks like a nursery with oversized ABC letters, noddy and many other nods to the famous children's books.
Despite only being Grand on stage, pictured above, she never loses the audience's attention and is believable. The actress seems to specialise in solo performances of head-strong women, previously playing Agatha Christie and Winston Churchill's wife, Clementine.
It's a short production at 80 minutes by On A Role Theatre Company
and directed by Chris Jaeger. While the first act is about Blyton's early life, it moves on to her saucy love life involving affairs and risque tennis matches. Jaeger increases the tension for a second act that turns darker.
Just before the interval, you see the more cut-throat side to Blyton and it continues as she addresses the many critics, including the BBC. It's cleverly done as the play doesn't take sides and lets you decide for yourself how you feel about a woman who ended up selling more than 600 million books worldwide, despite libraries and schools banning her books for more than 30 years.
Many, including teachers, accused her writing of hindering children's reading because of her limited vocabulary. There were also claims of hidden racism as many of the baddies in her books were foreign or darker characters. The Blyton on stage raises this and defends herself with counterarguments including how her adventures made children excited to read.
Taking us right up to her final years with Alzheimer’s, it's a touching ending to a thought-provoking, interesting piece of theatre. If you grew up on Blyton's books, as I did, you'll find this a fascinating, beautifully-acted insight into one of Britain's most notorious authors.
RATING: 4 out of 5 stars
UK Tour dates 2024
08/03/24 Middlesbrough Theatre
, Toft Lane, The Avenue, Middlesbrough, TS5 6SA
14/03/24 Arts Centre Washington
, Biddick Lane, Washington, NE38 8AB
21/03/24 Dugdale Theatre
, Enfield, EN2 6DS
06/04/24 The Old Laundry Theatre,
Crag Brow, Bowness-on-Windermere, LA23 3BX
09/04/24 Henley Arts4All Festival, Henley-in-Arden
09/05/24 Mayfield Festival
09/07/24 Lichfield Festival
16/11/24 Evesham Festival
272077 - 2023-12-04 11:44:24