alternately have the children on the edges at their seats and dancing in them. The Wicked Witch and the Wondertul Well is a show made lor kids and the kids make the show. (Andrea Calderwood)
Alice in Wonderlgig BovilvaEmmmb Over recent years the Lyceum has been one of several theatres to have embarked on the enterprising policy at altering an alternative Christmas show - one with a stronger narrative and more about it than the traditional panto. With this in mind, Alice in Wonderland seems a brave and exciting choice: a dillicult book ollering an immense challenge to make its peculiar qualities work on stage. Yet this is a curious production— in the linal staging there is little evidence of whatever imaginative impulse may have lead director (and in this case adaptor) Ian Wooldridge to choose it. We lollow Alice (Emma D’lnverno as a spirited, but charming little girl, ratherthan the determined little know-all ol Carroll‘s original) as she tests her yardstick at what is proper and what is right against the anarchic logic ol Wonderland, meeting, as she goes, a succession ol disturbingly ollbeat
characters. Some at these work well in
Wooldridge’s production: Anthony and -
Cochrane and Billy McElhaney stir up comedy and audience participation as disputatious lootmen; Graham Valentine and Steve Owen create a lovely little melancholy cameo as the gryphon and the mock turtle and Alison Peebles is an awesome Duchess.
Baba Vega and the llaglc Doll
ice in Wonderland
But though Carroll's original is lollowed to the letter, its spirit— dillicult to realise — is absent. There seems to be no unilying vision or reason running through the production to pull all the separate lragments together and make it work on stage, giving both those who know the original and those who don’t something to think about and the comic business, successlul and otherwise, sits uneasily in the mainstream ot the story. David McNiven’s style at music, though excellent in many past productions, seems completely inappropriate here and the whole thing leels like a good initial idea that comes nowhere near lullilling its potential. (Sarah Hemming)
_A_Ch_ris_t[nas Carol Palace Theatre, Kilmarnock Curiously enough, it is the very llaws which mar Dickens’ original story— its brevity and llawed, simplistic narrative — which make A Christmas Carol such an ideal pantomime. The visitations; Scrooge’s sudden and complete conversion; the pathetic ligure ol Tiny Tim —these may grate with students at literature, but certainly notwith the weans. Wildcat'stheory, ol course, is that this particular Dickensian view of Christmas has never been pertinent, which makes itthe pertect vehicle lor their style at political theatre (the novel is updated and adapted lorstage here by Peter Arnott). Similar notions have been held overthe years, but in 1986 it seems hard not to agree with them. Thanklully however, the political ‘message' is not overplayed and the show itsell is everything we have come to expect lrom a prolessional outlit like Wildcat. The staging is simple and ellective and the sell-penned songs excellent (though I rather think they would benelit lrom losing two orthree of them). Both David Anderson as Scrooge (not a million miles away lrom his ‘City Lights” bank manager) and Rab Handleigh as Bob Cratchit are particularly line and although the more sophisticated members at the audience lound Ann Scott-Jones a trille too trenetic, the majority laughed like drains. The only (literal) jarring note came trom Shirley Henderson’s
apparent determination to play Tiny Tim as some kind at Militant Jimmy Krankie, blessed with a singing voice which could charitably be described as ‘piercing’.
The company seemed rather surprised at the tumultuous ovation they received the night I saw them, but they had no reason to. They tread a line and successlul line between traditional panto and conventional theatre with what the programme describes as ‘the best lamily entertainment available over the lestive season in Scotland this year.’ Or. as two small girls put it alter the show: ‘it was nothing like the book.’ ‘I know, but it was dead lunny.’
The Incredible Brechin Beetle Bug 7:84, George_§qua_r§_T_lteatre, Edinburgh_(on tour)
One at Matt McGinn‘s best-known songs was ‘The Wee Kirkcudbright Centipede’ — in his panto, pertormed here by 7:84 nine years later alter his death, the Glasgow singer and writer turns his attention to a beast with marginally lewer legs and a more malevolent cast at mind. The Brechin Beetle Bug is the unwelcome outcome at a magic spell that goes wrong when Gregor McGregor (Simon Mackenzie), concoting a recipe to become Sandy Claws’ assistant is haplesst translormed into a large and yukky beetle bent on destroying toys and generally being uncivil. It is lelt to young Morag, Gregor’s liancée (Catherine Ann McPhee) and his great Grand Auntie, Annie Macholveachan (Alastair McDonald) to save the situation belore Christmas Eve is rendered totally presentless.
The production contains many at McGinn’s songs, and these really are the best parts —the script is pretty patchy, largely on account at its length, which the storyline can’t support. There are some nimble, lunny passages, but equally a lair amount that is more llat-looted, and this is reﬂected in John Haswell’s production which alternates between good lunny business and weak, unlinished areas. That said, Alastair McDonald makes a tremendously personable, successlul Dame, Ramon Grillin bugs everyone with great glee and Tich Frier keeps the potboiling musically. But everyone would benelit were a lew screws tightened. (Sarah Hemming)
The SilverSpLig Traverse, Edinburgh There is nothing like a Dame in this
Christmas Show (a lalrytale by Iain Sutherland, rather than a traditional panto) and yet the whole thing goes to show that, when it comes to sorting things out, there is nothing like a dame. As the debt-riddled Kingdom at Strathgushel (a sort ol Never-Never-Highlands perched between the mists at time and 1066 and All That) threatens to totter into the clutches at one evil Sir Gallus Todlowrie, it is young Princess Doucillle who uses her mettle and brains to get things moving, while her nice but leckless lather, King Andy (not quite a Good King), swithers between wringing his hands and cooking his boots tor breaklast and her well-meaning but cowardly liance, Smoutie, resorts to Heath Bobinsonish inventions. She it is who begins to solve the riddle ol the Silver Sprig, a magic charm given to her lather by the Fairy Queen in return lor kindness, in order to save the day and outwit Sir Gallus and his lord and master, the Evil Prince Foustiegirn, who would dearly like to gettheir hands on said Sprig. The storyline is the tamiliar tug olwar between Good and Evil, rather
The Beetle Bu
underdeveloped, but written with wit and spirit (in broadish Scots), and given an imaginative staging by Bryan Elsley, thatcombines areal edge at eeriness with high-spirited sell-parody. Flashbacks are beautifully handled and the combination ol the script and a good, musically versatile cast makes lor some strong,lovable characters. Stuart Bishop doubles as the dithering King Andy and a distressingly genteel Prince Foustiegirn, Corinne Harris gives Doucillle masses ol spirit, matching Andrew Price’s eager Smoutie, while James Twaddale and Cameron Gaskell make a lovely comic double-act as the evil Sir Gallus and his awesomely smelly assistant, Sharnie Dryboak. Anne Lacey meanwhile somehow alternates between playing Fairy Queen and Dxter the horse —the only one who really knows what’s going on and whose mounting exasperation makes tor plenty ol horseplay. Generally, however, this is the area where the production most lalls short— certainly at the beginning otthe run, (muted perhaps by lirst night cauti ‘ , it didn’t exploit all the plentilul possibilitieslorinvolving . - ' who were eagerto be appeal at the whole ”' show otherwise.
by the energy. Wit and
(Sarah Hemming) i.“ , i 1‘ g a a
PHOT0:DAVID LIDDLE The Sllver Sprig vlllalns