Bespectacled flop-eared sheep in black bobble hats, ducks on wheels, a fantastic gobbling turkey and Emu-style cockerel line up for a squeally fun production of Babe the Sheep-Pig by Illyria for Schools Week, with daily matinees.
The two act play by David Wood, based on the book by Dick King-Smith, starts at the village fair where Babe (Jennifer Ansdell) is the guess-the-weight-of-the-pig prize, and Farmer Hoggett’s wife (Angela Nesi) reckons he’ll do nicely for Christmas dinner, when he’s “all juicy and jubbly”.
Among the hoop-la and morris dancing, Farmer Hoggett (Alastair Chisholm) wins the prize pig and takes him home to meet his trusty sheepdog Fly (Emma Vickery) and her puppies (Matt Rothwell and Ffion Glyn) and Babe begins to settle in. All too soon, the puppies go to new homes and Fly adopts the pig who shows a lot of respect for the sheep, and makes a special friend of Maa (Ffion again) who is mutton dressed as mutton in a long cream woolly coat. Before long, Babe proves herself to be extra special, when she sees off a couple of slapstick sheep rustlers and ferocious worrier dogs, and her future turns rosy.
The touring Illyria company is directed with gusto by Oliver Gray, who is now Sennen based. The set is in sunny nursery colours – bright yellow hay bales, green baize sheep pens, and a farmhouse kitchen with blue dresser and red gingham table cloth, prettily designed by Christopher Barlow – who also concocted the scrawny cockerel. Costumes by Dean Horner’s were super, the collies with waggy ribbon tails and Babe in pink stripes and spectacles.
There is music and dancing, drum rolls and a barn lullaby and a surprise bouncy finale and young and old will be kept on their toes with plenty of input invited in a production that brings home the bacon (nothing personal Babe, you are a delight).