Having seen and been enthralled by The Gruffallo and Room on the Broom the expectations of theatre group Tall Stories production The Latke Who Wouldn’t Stop Screaming were high. Tall Stories know how to capture an audience’s imagination and transport them in to the eccentric world of children’s literature with assured wizardry, and they do not disappoint with Limony Snicket’s The Latke Who Wouldn’t Stop Screaming.
The set is a mesmerising and alluring throw back to the kind of Busby Berkeley stage design in 42nd Street; the cut out windows in the silhouetted townscape are back lit to produce a Tim Burton-esq spooky feel. Miniature houses, with a light dusting of snow occupy the downstage space and the characters run through the audience, as if through the town, in an excitable opening moment.
The Latke Who Wouldn’t Stop Screaming is a tale of a Latke who cannot find his place in the world and runs screaming until he eventually finds a home with a Jewish family. On his journey he meets a string of talking Christmas lights, Miss Candy Cane and a (Christmas) tree, all who want him to be a part of their festivities; but as the Latke explains the story of Chanukah and his purpose for being he realises how different he is and it is this dissolution that propels him to keep screaming.
There is humour in the telling of the Latke’s story and in the excellent use of space and props, shown skilfully in the transformation of a house into a giant dreidel, a hat into a Latke puppet and a superb enactment of the Chanukah story told entirely with vegetables. There is music and song which carries the production, a cross between kletzmer, jazz, country and Christmas carols. The Latke Who Wouldn’t Stop Screaming has a narrative that is charming with a lovely moral, it seeks to express that even if we are different we will always be welcomed somewhere. As The Latke, Tom Banks brings an unexpected humanity to a fried potato pancake and is supported expertly by the slick, multi-talented cast.
We laughed, we gasped, we tapped our feet and we even joined in to this delicious production. It lagged a little towards the end but recovered, as all great plays should, with a biting finale.
Lemony Snicket’s The Latke Who Wouldn’t Stop Screaming is running, literally and metaphorically at JW3, who co commissioned the production with The Roundhouse, until January 4th.