Tall Stories brings great stories to life for audiences of all ages. The company was founded in 1997 by joint artistic directors Olivia Jacobs and Toby Mitchell, who have co-created all the company’s shows since then.
Tall Stories is a registered charity which has become internationally recognised for its exciting blend of storytelling theatre, original music and lots of laughs. The company’s unique brand of physical storytelling theatre has toured from Cornwall to Aberdeen and from New York to Sydney.
In 2020 we partnered with Islington Council to transform a section of Central Library (in north London) into a storytelling hub for the company, housing an office space and a brand new studio designed for rehearsals and 80-seat preview performances.
Here is our story so far...
Following a chance meeting in the box office of Soho Theatre, Olivia and Toby co-found Tall Stories in order to take two devised shows to the Edinburgh Fringe. The shows are aimed at a general audience - and they seem to go down especially well with families...
1. Alice and Mr Dodgson
Adapted directly from the best-loved dialogues in the Alice in Wonderland books, Lewis Carroll spins his stories to a delighted Alice... The show plays to full houses of all ages and receives great reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe, followed by a short tour. ‘A delicate and moving piece of beautifully acted theatre’ (Scotsman)
2. The Happy Prince and Other Stories
We meet the happy prince, the selfish princess and the lovesick student in this adaptation of three of Oscar Wilde’s classic stories... The show plays to full houses of all ages and receives critical acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe, followed by a run at the Bull Arts Centre, Barnet. ‘Three stories by Oscar Wilde are lovingly and sensitively presented’ (Scotsman)
Following its previous year’s success, the company takes four shows to the Edinburgh Fringe. For family audiences, ‘Alice and Mr Dodgson’ returns - alongside ‘Rumpelstiltskin’. The company also takes up two shows for grown-ups.
A foolish miller tells a little lie to a greedy king – a lie that puts the life of the miller’s daughter in danger... After premiering at the Fringe, ‘Rumpelstiltskin’ embarks on a UK tour, as well as doing Christmas runs at the MacRobert Arts Centre in Stirling and the Lemon Tree in Aberdeen. ‘Clever, witty and inventive, you honestly don’t need to take a child to enjoy it.’ (The Scotsman)
A comedy about three female friends, the show performs at the Edinburgh Fringe and then at London’s Etcetera Theatre. ‘Three aspects of woman, channelled through three energetic and talented young actresses’ (Three Weeks)
A dark comedy about jealousy, written by James King. Following the Edinburgh Fringe, the show also performs at London’s Etcetera Theatre. ‘A superb production’ (NewsWatch)
This year the company takes two shows to the Edinburgh Fringe, one for grown-ups and one for family audiences - ‘Snow White’, which gains the company a UK agent (Clare Fischer, who represents the company for a few years) and international acclaim.
6. Snow White
A darkly humorous version of the classic fairy tale, which goes back to the original story... Following the Edinburgh Fringe, this becomes the company’s first show to carry out major national and international tours, performing at the Barbican, the National, the Scottish International Children’s Festival and on Broadway. ‘The three actors use an inspired mix of mime and song in this strongly visual production’ (Scotsman)
7. The Truth
An internet-based love story and thriller, the show plays the Edinburgh Fringe, then goes on to perform at London’s Etcetera Theatre. ‘A witty, lightly satirical look into the future’ (Ham&High)
Olivia and Toby take a year off from creating shows. Olivia is also running Camden People’s Theatre, while Toby is doing an MA in Advanced Theatre Practice at Central School of Speech and Drama.
The company embarks on its first full-scale UK tour, producing a show for the younger age group of 3+ for the first time. It is based on a so far little known book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler...
8. The Gruffalo
Adapted from the now classic picture book, the original UK tour premieres at Chester Gateway, and sells out at the Edinburgh Fringe. ‘The Gruffalo’ goes on to become the company’s longest running show, performing at the National Theatre, the West End, the Scottish International Children’s Festival, on Broadway, at Sydney Opera House and in more than a dozen countries around the world. It is also filmed for DVD. ‘It is a rare treat to find a show that really is for all the family’ (Scotsman)
Tall Stories performs at America's IPAY Festival for the first time. The company also plays in Warsaw for the first time, starting a continuing relationship with the English Theatre Company of Poland. The company moves from Olivia’s spare room into a basement office. Olivia and Toby start working for the company full time and employ an administrator, Caroline Beckman. ‘The Gruffalo’ returns to the Edinburgh Fringe, alongside a new adaptation.
9. Something Else
All alone in a small house on a windy hill lives Something Else. At least, that’s what everyone calls him. Then, all of a sudden, Something shows up... Adapted from the award-winning picture book by Kathryn Cave and Chris Riddell, the show tours the UK and performs at Soho Theatre over Christmas 2003. ‘Something Else is something very special indeed’ (The List)
‘Snow White’ plays at the New Vic theatre on Broadway. Caroline moves on and Sinead Mac Manus takes over as administrator. For the first time the company creates a family show from scratch, with no source material. It premieres at the Edinburgh Fringe, alongside the return of ‘Something Else’.
10. Mum and the Monster
One day Tom’s mum disappears and his dad tells him she’s been kidnapped by a monster. So Tom sets off on a quest... Based on an original story by co-director Toby Mitchell and created via workshops with schoolchildren in Barnet and other London boroughs, the show tours nationally in 2003 and 2004. ‘One of the most adventurous pieces of children’s theatre for some time...’ (Scotland on Sunday)
‘The Gruffalo’ plays at the New Vic theatre on Broadway. Sinead moves on and Caroline Beckman returns as administrator. The company creates a brand new adaptation of a much-loved 19th-century poem – plus a new translation of a classic 1950s French play for grown-ups.
11. The Owl and the Pussycat
Based on the much-loved poem by Edward Lear, the show tours the UK for a full year, including a run at the Edinburgh Fringe. ‘A wonderful piece of children’s theatre’ (Edinburgh Evening News)
12. The Egg
Emile sees the System as an egg. Can he beat it...? Translated by the company from Felicien Marceau’s French storytelling comedy, ‘The Egg’ plays to grown-ups at the Edinburgh Fringe. ‘Fresh, intriguing and funny’ (Big Issue)
‘The Gruffalo’ plays in London’s West End for the first time (at the Criterion) as part of its first tour to larger theatres. This is the start of the company’s long-running relationship with Kenny Wax and Nick Brooke Ltd. Lucy Atkinson joins the company as admin assistant. When Caroline moves on, Lucy is promoted to administrator. Tall Stories produces two new shows, one based on a brand new story and one which tells obscure tales from round the world.
13. The Snow Dragon
The mythical Snow Dragon delivers presents on New Year’s Eve. But has Billy the goat been naughty or nice...? Based on an original story by co-director Toby Mitchell, the UK tour opens in April 2005 and performs at the Edinburgh Fringe. The show goes on to become the company’s second-longest running show, performing in eight countries around the world and playing in London’s West End twice – at Soho Theatre and St James Theatre. ‘If you are a kid, if you have kids, if you ever were a kid, go and see The Snow Dragon.’ (Three Weeks)
14. Them With Tails
A couple of funny chaps tell two unlikely tales and one impossible one, improvised live from audience suggestions. It’s never the same show twice... A co-production with Network of Stuff Theatre, the show tours from April 2005 to December 2006, including a run at the Scottish International Children’s Festival. It returns for Christmas runs in 2009 and 2010. ‘This consummate family show is an absolute delight.’ (Three Weeks)
Tall Stories joins forces with Texas-based Holden & Arts, who book its US tours from now on. The company moves into a new home – the Compass Theatre in Ickenham, north-west London, from where it produces two new shows, including its second adaptation of a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler book.
15. The Gruffalo’s Child
No gruffalo should ever set foot in the deep dark wood. But one night the Gruffalo’s child ignores her father’s warning... Premiering at Polka Theatre in south London, the show now tours nationally to larger theatres and internationally to half a dozen countries, including runs in London’s West End, at Sydney Opera House and Hong Kong/Singapore. ‘Songs, laughs and scary fun for children aged 4 and up, and their adults… Perfect’ (Time Out)
16. Cat and No Mouse
Based on three little-known stories from the Brothers Grimm, this comical storytelling cabaret show premieres at ArtsDepot in Finchley, and performs at the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe 2007, presented by Serious Comedy. ‘A fun 50 minutes of Tom and Jerry-style slapstick and Morecambe and Wise-esque one-upmanship’ (The List)
‘The Gruffalo’ plays its first (of many) Christmas seasons in London’s West End – at the Duchess Theatre. Siobhan Higgins joins the company as admin assistant. Lucy moves on to the Roundhouse in Camden, her position being temporarily covered by Dan Schumann. To celebrate its tenth birthday, the company premieres two wholly original shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, for different age groups.
17. William’s Monsters
Staying with his grumpy Grandpa for the first time, William tries to go to sleep in his spooky attic room. But there are musical monsters hiding in the walls... Following the Fringe, ‘Monster Hits’ (the show’s original title) tours nationally from October to December 2007, and to Singapore and Poland. It performs under the title ‘William’s Monsters’ at Chelsea Theatre for Christmas 2008. ‘A heart-meltingly spectacular show’ (Three Weeks)
18. Does a Monster live Next Door?
A dark and spooky whodunit about Maud, a girl who hears monstrously scary noises at night and enlists the help of a mysterious young detective called Frieda... Following the Edinburgh Fringe, the show tours nationally in spring 2008. ‘A mysterious whodunit that keeps you hooked’ (The List)
Siobhan is promoted to administrator. The company becomes a registered charity and produces its first show inspired by fact as well as fiction.
19. How the Giraffe got its Neck
An evolutionary adventure across the high seas, telling two stories by Rudyard Kipling and a brand new one inspired by Charles Darwin... A collaboration with the Natural History Museum inspired by the Darwin bicentenary, the show opens in April 2008, before starting a national tour, including a run at the Edinburgh Fringe. ‘Funny, engaging and wonderfully told’ (Three Weeks)
Lisa McLean joins Tall Stories as administrative assistant. The company moves into a new home, the Institute Arts Centre in London’s East Finchley. The company tours its third adaptation of a Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler book.
20. Room on the Broom
Based on the much-loved book about a witch and her cat and a bunch of hitch-hiking animals, the show uses an innovative mix of actors and fantastic puppets. Previewing at the Old Town Hall in Hemel Hempstead and at Norden Farm Arts Centre in late 2008, the show now tours nationally to larger theatres and internationally to over half a dozen countries. ‘A truly theatrical feast that leaves both adults and children fully entertained.’ (The List)
‘The Gruffalo’ plays to 20,000 people in a field at Camp Bestival! Siobhan is promoted to General Manager. Tall Stories co-produces the first Australian tour of ‘The Gruffalo’, beginning its long-running relationship with Christine Dunstan Productions. The company also works with the Junges Theater Bonn on a German-language production of the show, starting anther long-running relationship. Over Christmas 2010, Tall Stories has seven shows running around the UK - including its second fact-inspired show...
21. Twinkle Twonkle
Inspired by nursery rhymes and the Big Bang, and developed in association with the Royal Society, the show tours throughout 2010, spending August at the Edinburgh Fringe and Christmas at Chelsea Theatre. The show returns in December 2011, as the Christmas show at London’s Roundhouse, and tours the US in spring 2012. ‘An imaginative and entertaining intergalactic romp’ (Time Out)
‘The Gruffalo’ plays Sydney Opera House. The company moves offices again (staying in north London), taking up residence in Highgate’s highly popular arts centre, Jacksons Lane. Tall Stories performs at KidsFest in Singapore and Hong Kong for the first time, starting a continuing relationship. The company creates a show based on a favourite TV series from its directors’ childhoods.
22. The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr Benn
When Mr Benn visits a particular fancy dress shop, he discovers a mysterious door that leads him into incredible adventures... Based on David McKee’s classic TV series, the show tours the UK, including the Edinburgh Fringe. ‘This lovingly staged adaptation delights a whole new generation of youngsters’ (The Herald)
Tall Stories welcomes its new Projects Co-ordinator Charlotte Lund to the company, as Lisa moves on to ‘The Lion King’. ‘Twinkle Twonkle’ tours America, and the Gruffalo and his Child continue touring Germany and Australia. Later in the year, it’s all change at Tall Stories as Siobhan heads off to commercial family theatre and Tall Stories welcomes Lucy Wood on board as its new Producer. The company adapts a Lemony Snicket short story and a seemingly unadaptable Donaldson/Scheffler title.
23. The Snail and the Whale
Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s magical tale comes to the stage, showing the amazing journey of the tiny snail and the humpback whale – as seen through the eyes of an adventurous young girl and her seafaring father... The show tours the UK (including the Edinburgh Fringe) from March to December and now tours internationally to nearly a dozen countries.
24. Latke who Couldn’t Stop Screaming
The story begins in a tiny snowy village, where a Latke, a fried potato pancake, is born screaming... This adaptation of the absurdly funny Lemony Snicket story plays at London’s Roundhouse over Christmas, co-produced by YAD Arts. ‘A wonderfully inventive take on the usual seasonal fare’ (Time Out)
‘Room on the Broom’ is nominated for an Olivier Award. A fantastic night out is had by all... Charlotte is promoted to Projects Manager and ‘The Snail and the Whale’ performs at London’s St James Theatre over Christmas. The company creates the third in its trilogy of fact-inspired shows, this time based on the theme of artificial intelligence.
25. My Brother the Robot
Once upon a time in the future a little girl tells her inventor dad that she's lonely. So her dad builds her a robot brother... Inspired by artificial intelligence and the science of robotics, and created in association with the University of Hertfordshire, the show tours the UK (including the Edinburgh Fringe) – to very positive reactions from audiences. ‘An engaging, laugh out loud, cracker of a show’ (Primary Times)
‘The Snail and the Whale’ plays at the New Victory Theater on Broadway. Tall Stories is nominated for the Eleanor Farjeon Award for Services to Children’s Literature. Natalia Scorer joins the company as an intern and is soon taken on full-time as Production Assistant. The company adapts a fantastic book by Cressida Cowell (creator of ‘How to Train Your Dragon’) and Neal Layton.
26. Emily Brown and the Thing
One evening, Emily Brown and her old grey rabbit Stanley hear a Thing crying outside their window. He just can’t get to sleep... Based on the book by Cressida Cowell and Neal Layton, the show tours the UK and is a sell-out and critical success at the Edinburgh Fringe, receiving four 5-star reviews! ‘A brilliant show: funny, touching, and completely satisfying’ (Edinburgh Guide)
‘The Snail and the Whale’ plays Sydney Opera House, while ‘The Gruffalo’ returns to the New Vic on Broadway. Sheila McClenaghan joins the company as part-time Finance Officer. Following its Christmas 2014 run at St James Theatre, ‘The Snow Dragon’ celebrates its tenth anniversary with a UK tour. The company premieres a brand new show at the Edinburgh Fringe.
27. Alfie White: Space Explorer
Alfie White is crazy about space. And his dad is training to be the first man on the moon. At least that’s what Alfie tells his schoolmates... Inspired by the music of the Malcolm Mitchell trio, the show plays the Edinburgh Fringe, receiving great reviews and audience feedback. ‘An original, well-crafted story that touches real human emotions’ (The Scotsman)
Tall Stories unveils its brand new website, designed by Frank Harrison at Linus Design. ‘The Snail and the Whale’ returns to the Edinburgh Fringe, accompanied by a brand new small-scale show, ‘Future Perfect’. ‘The Gruffalo’ plays the West End from July to January, with the performers taking ‘Future Perfect’ into London schools for free on autumn weekdays. Lucy Troy joins the company as temporary intern.
28. Future Perfect
Travel backwards and forwards in time with Dominic as he frantically tries to fix things. Can he change the past and make his future perfect? The show plays at the Edinburgh Fringe and in London schools. ‘Funny and clever, this play has lots of big ideas about friendship, making mistakes and, of course, time travel... Absolutely brilliant.’ (Primary Times)
Tall Stories celebrates its 20th birthday! The company moves into shiny new offices alongside hundreds of creative industry companies in London’s historic Somerset House, as Lucy Troy is taken on full time. ‘The Gruffalo’s Child’ and ‘Future Perfect’ perform at the Edinburgh Fringe and Tall Stories announces its brand new show, ‘Wilde Creatures’, based on the fairy tales of Oscar Wilde.
29. Wilde Creatures
A co-production with Nica Burns as part of Dominic Dromgoole’s year-long celebration of Oscar Wilde at London’s Vaudeville Theatre, the show runs over the Xmas 2017 season. Hauntingly beautiful tales told with original live music, imaginative storytelling and a generous dash of comedy. ‘More richly entertaining, resonant and heartening than many a grown-up show’ (The Times)
Tall Stories reaches ‘proper’ adulthood as it celebrates its 21st birthday and creates its first show for grown-ups for many years, ‘The Canterville Ghost’. Meanwhile ‘Wilde Creatures’ and ‘The Snow Dragon’ both perform at Sydney Opera House.
30. The Canterville Ghost
Oscar Wilde’s gruesome ghost story, as reimagined by a charismatic compere and his extraordinary company: an illusionist, a comedian and a psychic. The show premieres at the Edinburgh Fringe, playing in rep with ‘Wilde Creatures’. ‘Inventive, delightful and hilarious.’ (Scotsman)
Following a suggestion from Tall Stories’ board of trustees, Olivia and Toby both take sabbaticals. Toby uses his to create and perform in a small-scale show at the Edinburgh Fringe. Olivia travels, makes links in the film industry and develops ideas for a new grown-up show. Meanwhile, ‘Emily Brown and the Thing’ tours north America (including the New Victory on Broadway) and ‘The Gruffalo’ and ‘The Snail and the Whale’ both have West End runs. Lucy Troy leaves the company to join Somerset House, Harriet Billington joins as Production Assistant and then as permanent Production & Office Coordinator. And, after a record-breaking seven years with the company, Charlotte sadly departs to become an independent producer.
Robyn Wilson joins the company as Production Assistant. When Covid hits, ‘The Snail and the Whale’ is touring Australia and ‘Wilde Creatures’ is touring the US. Tall Stories brings both shows home and cancels all touring. During the initial lockdown the company hosts weekly warm-ups and skills workshops for its company members over Zoom. During the autumn lockdown, ‘The Snail and the Whale’ is reworked as a livestream - in association with Ticketco and many regional venues. The show is streamed from our studio in our new home at Central Library in Islington, London. When the company is forced to cancel its Christmas run of ‘The Gruffalo’ at the Lowry, that too becomes a livestream experience. ‘The Gruffalo's Child’ opens at Alexandra Palace in north London for Christmas - only to close due to Covid restrictions two weeks later...
In lockdown again, Tall Stories creates ‘Tales of Light’, a series of short stories filmed at home by company members and distributed online for free. In the spring, ‘The Gruffalo’ tours to drive-in venues around the country – and in the summer, ‘The Snail and the Whale’ becomes the company’s first post-lockdown tour. Amid this excitement, Olivia decides to step down as a full-time member of the Tall Stories team, becoming Artistic Associate and continuing to direct shows for the company. Meanwhile, Toby directs the company’s first new show since 2018 – ‘The Smeds and The Smoos’. And Eman Ansari joins the company as Production Assistant.
31. The Smeds and The Smoos
Based on the award-winning book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (described as ‘Romeo and Juliet with aliens and a happy ending’), the show previews at the Tall Stories Studio, before premiering at the Rose Theatre, Kingston, and touring the UK. ‘An uplifting performance – perfect family viewing.’ (BeyondTheCurtain)