Strange Town is a theatre company based in Edinburgh which aims to “enable young people to fulfil their creative potential”, by providing five to 25 year olds with the opportunity to participate in the creation of new theatre. This particular production was by the company’s eight to 10 year olds group and… well, here’s the thing, it was rather good!
the children’s performances were basic – but they were word-perfect, clearly audible and landed all the necessary plot points and big jokes with some real impact.
Not that it particularly mattered; the audience on the afternoon of the review appeared to consist almost totally of proud parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, and family friends of the 19 performers on stage. (No wonder it was a sell-out.) It was an easy room, in other words; one that would probably have accepted anything presented to them. (To paraphrase Doctor Johnson, they were the kind of audience who would have applauded a dog walking on its hind legs – not because it did it well, but because it did it at all.)
The point here, though, is that things were done well. Of course, the children’s performances were basic – but they were word-perfect, clearly audible and landed all the necessary plot points and big jokes with some real impact. Flying solo, they also kept the show rattling along on stage with seldom a hitch; I’ve seen supposedly professional productions that have dealt with scene changes far worse than here.
The 19 children in the cast were undoubtedly helped by Tim Primrose’s script. Sharply written, and sticking tightly to the main plot, not only did it actually make dramatic sense – unlike some professional pantomimes out there – it was also a solid foundation on which director Hazel Darwin-Edwards could hang simple, effective lighting changes, and the deceptively simple use of sound effects and repeated musical cues to indicate characters and get the laughs. Primrose also ensured that simple jokes – for example, the fact that everyone constantly pronounced the villain’s name wrongly, much to their annoyance – eventually led to an effective payoff before the close.
All in all, the kids on stage were clearly enjoying themselves, and their happiness filled the small theatre and ensured a real sense of festive joy that no glitter-covered set alone could provide.