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Web adaptation weaves some skilful themes

Charlotte's Web, The Polka Theatre, Wimbledon

Polka Theatre's summer offering is an accomplished adaptation of Charlotte's Web, the 1952 American classic by EB White.

Adaptor Joseph Robinette has transformed the novel's laconic narrative into a dramatically punchy piece: White's characters - innocent pig, cynical rat, intellectual spider and the rest - retain their integrity while keeping the audience laughing and anxious to know what happens next.

At the same time, the piece is infused with the book's themes of the value of friendship and the wistful recognition that the long summer days of childhood, once lost, can never come again.

It is a pity that White's celebration of language is not reflected in the lame lyrics of Charles Strouse's songs; but the emotional current is carried forward by the tunes (Strouse is the composer of Annie) and the musical interludes are performed with polish by a strong cast, among whom Dale Superville's likable pig Wilbur will undoubtedly win fans.

Director Roman Stefanski and designer Bethia Jane Green use all the resources they can find (trap-doors, wind-swept bubbles, spiders descending into the auditorium) to keep their audience constantly entertained.

Charlotte's Web runs at the Polka Theatre, The Broadway, Wimbledon, until August 19, running time one hour 40 minutes, tel 0181-543 4888.

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