it never lets go at the original’s literary I roots. The happy triumph oi lan Wooldridge’s production tor the Royal Lyceum Company is that it transcends the script's wordiness and creates an absorbingly muscular picture oi Native American liie. Strong on atmosphere, the production holds the attention oi a potentially rowdy schools audience using music, acrobatics and convincing story-telling alone. it’s a long stretch in the theatre ior those used to trawling their heads oil at this time oi year and it's one at the iew Christmas shows where the teachers insist their charges stay mum, but as it
turns out the kids need little persuasion.
This is made doubly surprising by the play’s epic structure which plots the dramatic conilicts with considerath more subtlety than your average children’s show. While Paul Courtenay Hugh’s Hiawatha takes centre stage, he is just one member oi a tight
ensemble which invents moods as
much as it creates dramatic action. A consequence is that it’s hard to rally
~ round Hiawatha with much passion as
he battles through the play, or to ieel much sense oi loss at the death oi Minnehaha (Sharon Hinds), but it does mean that we absorb a rich tapestry oi Red indian lite on the way.
In keeping with the unilamboyant approach, Kenny Miller’s set is a modest and inexpensive curtain oi earthy red, a colour which he picks up in the costumes. indeed, the theatrical magic comes not irom special eiiects, but irom a physical agility that enables the company not only to make a canoe beiore our eyes, but also to become the river on which it iloats.
Vibrant, well-paced and inventive, Hiawatha is a considerably quieter option than its panto rivals, but l'm still having diiiiculty with the programme crossword.
Turtle Count: Nil. Crossword: Hard. (Mark Fisher).
Paisley Arts Centre. Until Mon 24 December.
Well, panto is torthe kids really, isn’t it? And on the bitterly cold alternoon when I saw Snowhite, the kids were unstoppably enthusiastic. Not the audience, you understand: aside irom a law class clowns, they were quite subdued. l’m talking about the cast.
David Wallace, the writer and director oi this show, has leit himseli wide open to the age-old insult that the cast outnumber the audience, by roping in about 50 youngsters and giving several oi them starring roles. Naturally, the show lacks the polish oi the big budget Glasgow productions and Wallace’s script reads in places (most places) something like the Aberystwyth Hag Mag (ie cringeiully dreadiul), but the point at community theatre is to involve the community. Wallace and his team have certainly done that.
OK, so some oi the singing is ilat, some oi the acting iorgetiul and some at the dance routines more Fred ‘n' Barney than Fred ‘n’ Ginger, but then what can you expect when your cast are iirst year graduates out oi HSAMD? Yes, it’s the adults who really let the side down —the kids hardly put a tool wrong.
Maybe next year, Wallace could go the whole way and give the show over entirely to the children. On this reckoning, itwould be an improvement. Ten out oi ten, though, ior behaving as a community theatre should, especially at Christmas. Turtle Count: Part oi the story, so innumerable.
Cross Dressing: Just Wallace. (Philip Parr)
Dld Athenaeum Theatre, Glasgow. Until Sat 5Jan.
‘This is pantomime,’ observes Aarnold the Aardvark towards the end oi a long iirst halt in Skint Knees’ Aladdin, ‘you can do anything you like in pantomime.’
But despite the supportive cries oi ‘oh yes you can’, the aardvark is quite wrong. Pantomime is a precise cratt and ‘doing what you like’ leads to unpredictable results. The iirst thing that writers John Hasweil and John Baraldi have done is to ditch most oi the conventional Aladdin plot, hanging on to the lamps, jewels and genies only when it suits them. This would be line it they had a good alternative, but their story is an aimless, rambling aiiairthat could comiortably linish at any point alter the iirst hali. Given that it takes a
presence and they paw each other iranticaliy as it uncertain oi making the end oi the scene. John Straiton's Aladdin in particular, seems to be genuinely lost as he ilaps his arms and appeals ior supportirom Jenny McCrindle’s indulgent aardvark. It‘s partly to do with Mary McCluskey’s imprecise direction, but also with a script that lacks clarity in character, action and humour. Dnly Emma Curi‘ie‘S: Gen 9 oi the “.3311; jj‘vuu any sense that she knows what she’s doing and why.
Having said this, the children in the audience are more than content with the proceedings. The slapstick is
' pitched right at their level and there are
plenty oi songs, chases and shouting matches in which they can get involved. But having been denied the chance to applaud alter a couple oi songs, they appear unsure oi how to respond when the curtain call comes around and alter all the bawling and yelling the show just peters out. Turtle Count: Dne.
Cross Dresing: Yes.
GERBE— BABES IN THE wooo
King’s Theatre, Glasgow. Until 23 February. To quote Gerard Kelly at the linale oi
Babes in the Wood, ‘This show was the
creation oi a man who has iorgotten more about pantomime than most oi us will ever Iearn’. This is undoubtedly true, as Rikki Fulton has been in this game a particularly long time. Uniortunately, what he has chosen to rememberwould be better laid to rest.
Fulton appears to be oi the opinion that panto is just a load at ingredients thrown onto the stage, mixed up a little and dispensed to the audience with a large dose oi saccharin. This show is so overloaded with sweet children, dressed sweetly and singing sweet little songs (mostly oi a 40s vintage) that to assume even the over-605 would lap it up is to stretch optimism to the outer extremes. Smutty jokes also pepper the proceedings at regular intervals and as a result there’s very little leitiorthe kids.
There are good points- as long as you’re old enough to understand City Lights. Gerard Kelly was born ior this type oi periormance and Iain McColl provides a labuious toil to Kelly’s exuberance. Una McLean as a iemale dame is iunny, lthink— her accent is impenetrany broad ior much at the time. And because the children, who are so overused beiore the interval have to be eventually packed oil to bed, the second hall is vastly superior to the iirst, with Kelly and McColl thoroughly enjoying themselves.
good 40 minutes ior them to introduce ‘ any idea oi a plot in the iirst place, this is no slight criticism.
The sprawling story is compounded iurther by sloppy periormances. The
But this is one all-singing, all-
, dancing lump oi ludge that i could well ,' have done without.
Turtle Count: Nil.
Cross Dressing: Just about everybody
\ “7’, a , ’ i V _, £5? actors tend to shout instead oi : at one stage or another. Paul Courtenay Hugh gets carried away in Hiawatha es‘abnsmng a compeu'm d'amauc | ("WP P3")
The List 21 December 1990— l()January 199151