The Lorax – Old Vic Theatre

The Lorax is an adaption (by David Grieg) of the much-loved children’s book by Dr Seuss. This is the first stage production ever of the children’s book and what an excellent world premiere it is – five fish and five bird puppets as well as the Lorax himself, outstanding puppeteers, uplifting and touching songs, and great scenery and props. Although it is a production which children will love, there is something for everyone, and the story is comic and fun, as well as delivering a serious inspirational and moving message.

The show is the story of The Onceler, who is kicked out by his family and sets out to ‘dream some big dreams’ and make it rich. Through his own greed and vanity, he turned a great forest into a city which pollutes the air and the water. His abuse of the Earth’s resources drives away his friend, The Lorax, his family (who are greedier than him and set off for pastures new once all the trees are gone where they are) and the rest of the people who lived there, and, despite his great business and money, he ends up alone. Simon Paisley Day (Urinetown, The 39 Steps, Private Lives) plays a fantastic and relatable The Onceler.

The Lorax first appears when The Onceler chops down a tree to reach the tufts to make ‘thneeds’ (a kind of incomplete, misshapen scarf). The Lorax speaks for the trees and tries to stop the Onceler from cutting them down and insists if one ‘looks after the forest, the forest will look after you’. However, The Onceler carries on and The Lorax sadly leaves as the last ‘truffula’ tree is cut down – it is a really touching scene with a tenderly delivered song. The Lorax’s last word to The Onceler is ‘unless’.

We learn the answer to the ‘unless’ riddle at the end of the show, when a ‘truffula’ seed is planted by a young woman who cares and the seed begins to grow – ‘unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing will ever get any better’. In other words, we can all be a Lorax and speak for the trees if we care enough about our world.

The show features a lot of puppets which are magnificently crafted and controlled. The Lorax itself has three puppeteers controlling it: Laura Cubitt (War Horse, Women Beware Women, Oppenheimer) moves the right arm; Ben Thompson (War Horse, Beforr the Dawn, Madam Butterfly) moves the feet; and Simon Lipkin (The Assassins, I Love You You’re Perfect Now Change, Rock of Ages) moves the head and left arm and is also the voice of The Lorax. Lipkin demonstrates incredible skill in acting through the puppet and conveys emotion brilliantly.

The show features many animals (both puppets and human) which bring the production to life, and there are some very comic moments, such as the fish with a briefcase. The Lorax himself steals the show of course – he’s such an enchanting, endearing little guy!

It’s an excellent show to see over the festive season because it’s so magical and full of hope. The ushers handing out seeds at the end of the performance is a lovely touch, reminding us that everyone can be a Lorax – we just have to care.


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