"All Creatures Great" and Small" is a theatrical adaption by Simon Stallworth of the book by James Heriot (Dr James Alfred Wright) and is the story of a young man James Heriot (Oliver Melbour) arriving in the Yorkshire moors to take up his first employed position as a vet at the local practice run by Sigfried Farnon (Mark Curry) and aided (after a fashion) by his younger brother Tristian (Lee latchford Evans).
This is a very gentle play that almost seems to belong in a far gentler period of time. The storyline works niceley on many levels. We have James having to prove himself as a professional vet to his new employer , the struggle he has trying to get the local farmers to accept a "new young vet", his falling in love with the Yorkshire moors landscape itself, and the growing romance and eventual marriage to Helen (Claire Buckfield). Along the way we also meet Helens sister Emily (Harriett Hare) and her father (Michael Palmer), the wealthy but slightly ecentric Mrs Pumphrey (Susan Penhalon) and Tricky Woo her over fed Westtie dog (the onnly real creature on stage)
There is lot of warmth and humour in this adaption and a genuinely touching scene between James and an old man who has to have his much loved elderly dog put down.
There is some very clever but simple set design here by Simon Scullion that sets the scenes perfectly and also lets you believe through some fine acting from everyone on stage that there are real animals behind these gates and doors. To have no live animals on stage but have an audience believe that they are just there out of sight just proves how powefull good theatre can be when acted, directed (Tim Welton), and staged properly.
I have to admit that I knew of this material more from the BBC television series than the books, so tonights visit to the theatre was one of those not knowing really what to expect sort of visits. This one "nice surprises" that you do not get to often. This was just a simple story gently told by a good script and delivered by good performers. You can take the whole family to this knpwing that there is nothing there likely to offend anyone of any age. "All Creatures" is simply a very pleasant evening out at the theatre and a fine example of what good theatre can do by simply pulling you right into the story and making you believe in the characters (even if the animals are invisible) and care about the characters.
Review by Tom King