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Take the Family › Family Shows: Mr Stink

Family Shows: Mr Stink

Mr StinkMr Stink

‘What’s the news, Stinkmania?’ we all sing, over and over, driving home from the first Lowry airing of Mr Stink, based on David Walliams’ wonderful novel about a lonely 12-year-old girl called Chloe who befriends a tramp, in doing so unwittingly thwarting her mother’s nefarious political ambitions.

The catchy songs and funny, funky dance routines are just some of the unexpected delights of this fine adaptation that’s currently doing the rounds of the UK – the real USP of the show is that it’s the “very first scratch 'n' sniff musical ever!”. This means that on the door each kid gets a Quentin Blake designed booklet full of odours, most of them none-too-appetising (although it has to be said, many of them smell rather similar in their awfulness). Every so often throughout the show, Mr Stink’s dog – a puppet – pops up to sing a little ditty indicating that it’s time to scratch one of the pages and release the smell. Cue huge groans from the audience when Mr Stink burps or farts (the latter at none less than the prime minister), but also moans of bliss when we get a sniff at the newsagent’s sweet counter.

If it all sounds pretty puerile, the show is nonetheless well-intentioned and deeply humane. Homelessness, it turns out, is a state of mind – estranged from her mother and sister, Chloe starts out ‘homeless in her heart’, while Mr Stink himself ultimately resists returning to a conventional life, explaining that he lives outside so as to keep watch for the star that symbolises, for him, his late wife. We’re also reminded, without the point being laboured, that the homeless are not statistics but all have their own stories, and that any one of us might end up homeless. Bullying and over-eating are other themes dealt with lightly but in a thought-provoking way, and even the unpleasant characters get to see the error of their ways and redeem themselves. Just as when we were reading the book, I got the impression that my boys were taking all this even as they enjoyed the story’s high dose of humour and fun. I, meanwhile, cried at both book and show. But then that’s mums for you.

Mr Stink has now closed.

By Rhonda Carrier

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