The Gruffalo Live on Stage at Cape Town Fringe

South Africa Premiere

Thursday, August 18, 2016 — The Gruffalo is coming to South Africa! The National Arts Festival announced today that it is producing Tall Stories’ hit musical adaptation of the award-winning picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Originating in the UK, this enchanting production combining songs, laughter and storytelling theatre will premiere in South Africa as part of the Cape Town Fringe in September with an all-Grahamstown cast.


Set to a wonderfully catchy score with original music and lyrics, the South African production will be directed by Tara Notcutt and will feature all the characters, songs and storyline from the smash hit West End production, with a uniquely local feel. “The next stage of the production’s life will be an isiXhosa version in early 2017. Meanwhile we’re casting the production, building the sets and making the costumes entirely in Grahamstown as part of the Festival’s ‘Creative City’ partnership,” Notcutt said. “We’re hoping that The Gruffalo will propel some great new talent onto the national stage – while introducing audiences to the magic and fun of one of Britain’s best-loved characters.”


Casting is now complete, and bringing the story to the stage will be an ensemble cast comprising Nombasa Ngoqo, Ayanda Nondlwana and Sisonke Yafele. The cast have all been part of the European Union-funded Makana Arts Academy, and have worked on a number of award-winning productions at the Festival and Cape Town Fringe – including Waterline and Falling Off the Horn.


While the South Africa production will remain true to the West End storyline, production, script and characters, it is expected that large doses of charisma, energy and flair from the cast will make the South African version unique, and heighten its appeal to local audiences. “The Gruffalo has universal appeal as a story and the stage version is a proven success worldwide. We’re taking that framework and making the characters instantly recognisable to young South Africans, putting them in a familiar context and taking ownership of the story,” Notcutt said.   


The picture book The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler in 1999, is a worldwide phenomenon, having sold over 13 million copies in 75 editions worldwide. It has been translated into dozens of languages, including Portuguese, Dutch, Italian, Russian, Turkish and Afrikaans. An isiXhosa version of the book, and the musical, are in the pipeline as part of the Festival project.


“This collaboration with Tall Stories theatre-company has been over a year in the making and we couldn’t be happier that we are bringing this show from the West End to the South African stage – in English this year and isiXhosa in 2017,” Festival CEO Tony Lankester said. “And by involving Grahamstown artists in a long-term touring production such as this we’re giving them an unrivalled opportunity to develop their national profiles and careers in the arts.”


Olivia Jacobs, Joint Artistic Director of Tall Stories and original director of the production said: “We’re thrilled to be working alongside the National Arts Festival to create Tall Stories production of The Gruffalo in South Africa. We’re looking forward to seeing how the show develops with a local company and wish the Grahamstown team all the best of luck!”





“An Absolute Delight” The Scotsman


“This show achieves exactly what it sets out to do and fully deserves the appreciation of reviewers, whether aged eight or eighty” British Theatre


“Keeps the children spellbound and is hard to fault” Radio Times


Tall Stories was founded in 1997 by co-directors Olivia Jacobs and Toby Mitchell. The company brings great stories to life for audiences of all ages. Tall Stories is a registered charity which tours the UK and the world with its exciting blend of storytelling theatre, original music and lots of laughs.


 “Tall Stories sets the benchmark for children’s theatre” Sunday Times.  



Online booking for the Cape Town Fringe will open on 22 August 2016 at


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The Cape Town Fringe is managed by the National Arts Festival. The City of Cape Town is the Host Sponsor of the Cape Town Fringe, while Standard Bank is the Presenting Sponsor of the event.



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