Crowstarver, The Nuffield

First published in Stage Reviews by

DOWN on the farm of 1940s England, every bark, bleat and neigh of the barnyard is beautifully brought to life to tell the heart-warming tale of The Crowstarver.

Based on the novel by Dick King Smith, Theatre Alibi recreate the story of a boy called Spider Sparrow – so named because of the way he scuttled about as an infant.

Abandoned as a baby on a farmer’s doorstep, Spider, expertly captured by Malcolm Hamilton, is lovingly raised by his surrogate parents who take him in as their own. Despite severe special needs making him slow of speech, Spider reveals a unique ability to communicate with animals and perfectly mimic their calls.

Outcast by the education system but much-loved by the local community, at 13 Spider is given a job Crowstarving – scaring the crows to protect the corn. While out on the farm Spider enjoys his fair share of adventure thanks to his extraordinary relationship with animals, including befriending a visiting fox beautifully performed by some captivating puppetry.

The animals provide the real magic to this production, each creatively represented by the cast of five as they transform themselves from human, to dog, to horse, to tom cat. Just like Spider, the actors’ animal mimicry is superb from frantic leg patting for a dog’s wagging tail to the distant looming call of the cuckoo.

The golden glow resonating from the stage, ambient violin music and the occasional pattering sound of birds flocking from trees overhead all fill the Nuffield Theatre with the warmth of a summer’s day in the countryside. Like a Sunday afternoon walk, The Crowstarver has an uplifting charmthat's difficult not to love.

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