Wide awake and rip-roar­ing fun

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - Culture - By Mark Brown

Sleepin’ Cu­tie MacRobert Arts Cen­tre Univer­sity of Stir­ling Four Stars

Un­til De­cem­ber 31

They say that the best things come to those who wait. That is cer­tainly true of Sleepin’ Cu­tie, Johnny McKnight’s lat­est pas­tiche pan­tomime for the MacBob. The show, in which the tit­u­lar “Cu­tie” (aka Princess Bon­nie) is aban­doned to a long sleep by her sadist mother and dog chain-wear­ing masochist fa­ther, takes a lit­tle time to get go­ing.

Maybe it’s the per­plex­ing S&M theme, or per­haps it’s the early vol­ley of pop cul­ture ref­er­ences (many of which go whizzing over the heads of the chil­dren in the au­di­ence), but the panto makes an un­usu­ally slow start.

Fear not, how­ever, di­rec­tor Julie Ellen’s pro­duc­tion soon picks up pace and, by the in­ter­val, is al­ready shap­ing up to be an­other Yule­tide humdinger for the MacRobert. Partly this is down to McKnight’s script find­ing its mojo, but it also has a lot to do with the show boast­ing one of the finest casts in the Scot­tish pan­to­sphere.

When you have the likes of Robert Jack (win­ner of the Best Male Per­for­mance gong in this year’s Crit­ics’ Awards for The­atre in Scot­land, as the glo­ri­ously silly Jester) and He­len McAlpine (ex­plo­sively hi­lar­i­ous as the bad­die Quee­nie McMeanie) on your stage, panto magic is all but guar­an­teed. Add Gavin Wright (won­der­fully un­bri­dled as both the masochist King Barry and Quee­nie’s lit­tle, green sprog Leanie McMeanie) and Keith McLeish (a sassy, sharp-talk­ing rev­e­la­tion as Fairy Con­trary), and there’s enough the­atri­cal en­ergy for two pan­tos.

When Prince Charm­ing (played in know­ingly ironic, thigh-slap­ping prin­ci­pal boy style by Katie Bar­nett) ar­rives, the au­di­ence gets right

be­hind Jester, who is in love with Bon­nie (the fine-voiced Kara Swin­ney). This is due to Jack’s charm in the role of pan­tomime dafty, but also to Bar­nett’s Prince be­ing a Lord Flash­heart wannabe with a posh voice that’s more an­noy­ing than funny.

As ever at the MacBob, the cast is sup­ported by a cho­rus of tal­ented, all-singing, all-danc­ing lo­cal kids. It takes a lit­tle time, but when Sleepin’ Cu­tie wakes up, it rouses it­self into an­other hit Stir­ling­shire pan­tomime.

A Lad­der To The Stars MacRobert Arts Cen­tre Univer­sity of Stir­ling Three Stars

Un­til De­cem­ber 24

The MacBob ex­cel­lent, lit­tle stu­dio the­atre presents a play for chil­dren aged five and un­der by Glas­gow-based the­atre com­pany Vis­i­ble Fic­tions and Aberdeen Per­form­ing Arts. Adapted from Si­mon Put­tock’s chil­dren’s book by Vis­i­ble Fic­tions’ di­rec­tor Dougie Irvine, A Lad­der To The Stars tells the story of an un­named, seven-year-old girl who wishes to dance with a star.

The tale, in which the moon and the sun try to find ways of get­ting the lit­tle girl into outer space, is made for the tal­ents of pup­pet maker Ailie Co­hen, set de­signer Becky Minto and props maker Mar­ian Colquhoun. Co­hen’s pup­pet for the wee girl is as clev­erly ma­nip­u­la­ble as it is charm­ing vis­ually.

Minto’s de­sign is like a reg­u­lar the­atre set that has been minia­turised in ev­ery as­pect. This in­cludes a neat, lit­tle stage re­volve, which ac­tors/pup­peteers Car­men Pier­ac­cini and Ro­nan McMa­hon use to the full (think the Gen­er­a­tion Game con­veyor belt de­liv­er­ing key props in the story). The props and the smartly at­tuned light­ing (by Gra­hame Gard­ner) com­plete a de­sign tri­umph.

Sadly, de­spite the best ef­forts of the tal­ented Pier­ac­cini and McMa­hon, the piece’s struc­ture re­quires too much of the in­creas­ingly rest­less young the­atre­go­ers. A de­light­ful look­ing show, but one which, ul­ti­mately, isn’t suf­fi­ciently en­gag­ing for its pre-school au­di­ence.

Pho­to­graph: Mi­haela Bodlovic

Sleepin’ Cu­tie at the MacRobert boasts one of the finest casts in the Scot­tish pan­to­sphere

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