It shouldn’t happen to a vet – but a lot of it does in James Herriot’s wise and wonderful stories of his rural working life, now translated into a touring stage production.
All Creatures Great and Small is old-fashioned, quaint, and utterly charming as it follows the early months of Herriot’s veterinary career in the Yorkshire Dales and portrays some of the larger than life characters he met and worked alongside, not least following the relationship of James and Helen, his wife to be.
It’s a warm piece that never ceases to be appealing and, while Simon Stallworthy’s script may not always be the most dynamic, a rather splendid cast gives their all and makes everything worthwhile in this Bill Kenwright production.
Herriot’s son once remarked that his father, “didn’t write about animals, he wrote about people” – and given the obvious limitations of the stage it’s the people who are most important here, recreated superbly and lovingly by a cast of just eight impressive performers.
Oliver Mellor has good stage presence as a vulnerable and personable James, with youthful wisdom and a sense of humour straight from the pages of the autobiographies. As the cantankerous and often eccentric Siegfried Farnon, Mark Curry is a revelation; he is every inch the big-hearted boss with a quick temper. Playing Tristan is Lee Latchford-Evans, probably better known for his music career, but proving his stage worth as this boyish and likeable character.
Clare Buckfield is a sweet but gutsy Helen while Susan Penhaligon has great fun with the indomitable and dotty Mrs Pumphrey, complete with adorable Tricki Woo, the one real animal actor in the play.
Rob Maloney is particularly strong in support as a variety of crusty farmers, an eight-year-old boy, and a scene-stealing Vicar, while there are great performances too from Michael Palmer and Harriett Hare. This talented trio shows off their incredible versatility in a range of memorable roles.
Memories are bound to be influenced by the original books, films, and TV series, but don’t let that put you off seeing this family-friendly and enchanting production, an ensemble piece with heart and style.