(Michael Billington’s article appeared in the Guardian, 12/19.)
One of the astonishing things about this children’s story by the prolific Theodor Seuss Geisel is its prescience: even in 1971, it was warning about the danger to the environment of unchecked capitalist growth. But this exhilarating adaptation by David Greig, with songs by Charlie Fink, retains the original message without ever being preachy or pious. Its liberal spirit is balanced by a wonderful sense of impending anarchy.
Greig stays true to the original fable. In ingeniously rhyming verse, he tells how the Once-ler was led into a betrayal of his friend, the Lorax, “a beavery thing” who speaks for the trees. Chancing upon the fruitful truffula tree, the antihero discovers its tufts yield a multipurpose product called a “thneed” for which there turns out to be a big market. Soon the Once-ler turns into a mad axeman chopping down whole forests and building factories in order to satisfy voracious demand. But, while the balance of nature is disturbed, the story offers a sliver of hope in a cryptic clue left by the bereft Lorax.