Prepare the ginger beer, The Famous Five returned recently in a new musical production offering fun and adventures galore

As autumn shadows lengthen, a new musical production of The Famous Five offers sunshine, even a chance to break out the ginger beer (lashings of). Enid Blyton’s most illustrious young sleuths, not forgetting Timmy the dog, are returning to save the world – and just in the nick of time, some might argue.

The musical, created by Theatr Clwyd in a co-production with Chichester Festival Theatre, is written by Elinor Cook and with music and lyrics by Theo Jamieson. Theatr Clwyd Artistic Director Tamara Harvey is a huge fan of the original books that have inspired this production, saying: “I loved Enid Blyton’s stories when I was a kid – the magical worlds she created and the daring adventures she and her characters took me on – and so it’s a huge privilege to have the chance to bring The Famous Five to life on stage”.

Famous Five revival
The Famous Five in rehearsal – and Timmy the dog also plays a starring role. Photos: The Other Richard (Press) Sam Harrison

While Blyton books didn’t always get the best reception among educationalists (I recall her being ‘banned’ for boring vocabulary in my school), you can’t argue with her fan base – running to millions across the world. Nor too her amazing ability to spin a gripping yarn, most notably with The Famous Five series. This began in 1942 and, due to its enormous success, ran to 21 books over the next two decades.

This musical is, unapologetically, inspired by those blockbusters. George and her dog Timmy prepare for summer to be ruined by the arrival of her cousins Julian, Anne and Dick. But with Kirrin Island, a ruined castle and all sorts of funny goings to be investigated, there’s no chance of dull days. The cousins go on a mission to solve a mystery – along the way sorting out baddies and saving the planet. With derring-do set to song, it’s a treat for audiences in Mold, Flintshire (home of Theatr Clwyd) and at Chichester.

Heero Famous Five
Inimitable heroine George shows her customary bravery in this new musical production directed by Tamara Harvey

While this production is a retro celebration, the two regional theatre companies involved are innovators. Theatr Clwyd punches high, as shown by productions such as Laura Wade’s Home, I’m Darling – a co-production with the National Theatre that won Best New Comedy at the Olivier Awards. It still designs and builds productions from scratch and has an impressive programme for developing stage and backstage theatre talent, as well as working with lots of schools. Chichester Festival Theatre has a similar track record for working with young people and an impressive and longstanding association with productions that head to the West End (Laurence Olivier was its first artistic director and Daniel Evans is at the helm now). So could The Famous Five be among its London-bound shows?  Enid Blyton fans hope so. In fact, we are primed and ready to crack open the ginger beer.

The Famous Five is a co-production by and

Further reading: Drama escape at Trinity Theatre