FAMILIES were treated to an extraterrestrial tale with a compelling moral story as The Smeds and The Smoos came to the Theatre Royal Winchester.

The play, produced by Tall Stories, takes on the book of the same name written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.

Most parents will be familiar with their work, the most famous being the Gruffalo, and its follow up the Gruffalo's Child, or any one of Donaldson’s hundreds of books, such as the Highway Rat, Zog, Superworm, the Snail and the Whale, the list goes on and on.

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For Donaldson and Scheffler's work is not only prolific, making them the UK's number one picture book pair, it also captures the imaginations of children, their combination is one that enchants and also lends itself to adaption for the small screen and the stage.

The Smeds and The Smoos is one of their later works, only published in 2018. The Smeds and The Smoos won the British Book Award in 2020 - and it has a bit more of a complicated story to it than some of their more traditional books.

Think Romeo and Juliet, but set in space, with colourful characters, zany worlds and a powerful lesson of racial harmony.

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The characters are brought to life by Dan Armstrong, who plays Bill, and Althea Burey, who plays Janet, the star-crossed lovers, and their grandparents Tim Hibberd and Angela Laverick, who both offer opposing views to the other side.

All the actors are warmly received by their audience, and the show, all 58 minutes of it, goes down a treat.

You'll be guaranteed to walk out singing "that's why you should never play with a Smoo" - or any number of catchy songs.

If you've ever enjoyed the book, then this play is a sure-fire hit. I wouldn't be surprised to see the story follow in the likes of some of its more well-known counterparts and make it on to our televisions at Christmas.

As ever, the Theatre Royal Winchester provides a perfect place for a family outing, an excellently refurbished venue with an auditorium that's not too scary for the younger children.

The Smeds and The Smoos will be returning to Hampshire on February 12–13 when it will be appearing at MAST Mayflower Studios, Southampton. For more go to tallstories.org.uk/

For more on Theatre Royal Winchester, or to find out about other upcoming family-friendly plays at the theatre such as Dear Zoo on March 6 to 7 or Sooty's Magic Show on April 11, go to theatreroyalwinchester.co.uk/

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Kimberley Barber