Magic touch transfers familiar show to stage

All Creatures Great and Small
All Creatures Great and Small
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All Creatures Great and Small, Devonshire Park Theatre, Eastbourne

It seemed an impossible task transferring a popular television series that relied heavily on the beautiful Yorkshire Moors landscapes and the live animals on to the stage where neither can appear but Bill Kenwright has waved his magic wand as usual and succeeded.

Simon Stallworthy has adapted James Herriott’s book for the stage so cleverly that all the familiar storylines are there and Simon Scullion’s set transforms the vets from their office to various farms, cowsheds and stables.

Tim Welton directs the talented cast with great precision that the comedy in the original series is not lost and although James is no longer seen with his arm up a cow’s backside he is seen pulling a rope to turn a calf around before it is born and trying to re-insert a uterus back inside a cow.

Mark Curry is brilliant as Siegfried Farnon. He has all the mannerisms of the familiar character to his rages at his wastrel brother Tristan and his encouragement for James when he first joins the practice.

Oliver Mellor has transformed from a doctor (Matt Carter in Coronation Street) to a vet as James and gives a very good performance, as does former member of Steps Lee Latchford-Evans as Siegried’s brother Tristan.

Clare Buckfield is well cast as Helen, the future Mrs Herriott, and Michael Palmer is her father who warms to James when he proves to be a good vet as well as a good son-in-law.

Susan Penhaligon was unable to appear at Eastbourne and her role of Mrs Pumphrey was played by her understudy Tori Hargreaves.

She was good in the role even though she looked too young and her beloved pooch Tricki-Woo was not a pekinese as in the TV series but Mark Curry’s West Highland Terrier who got the biggest applause in the show.

If you forget the TV series and just remember Herriott’s delightful books you will thoroughly enjoy this production.

By Amanda Wilkins