There's no denying the pulling power of Lynley Dodd's best-selling children's series Hairy Maclary: with vibrant characters, charming stories and colourful settings they are popular throughout the English speaking world. Here, in this show from Nonsense Room Productions, we are taken on a musical journey through six of Dodd's most beloved stories.
Despite the first story being written in the 80s, this is choc-full of old-fashioned charm, the tales harking back to another, more gentle era. All of the characters familiar to the readers of the books are here: Muffin McClay, Hercules Morse, Bitzer Maloney, Zachary Quack and of course, the evil Scar-faced Claw, the terror tomcat in town and Hairy Maclary's scariest foe. The books are ripe for musical theatre adaptation, the rhyming story-lines providing ready made lyrics.
There are many opportunities to join in with the performance: there are actions and sound effects and plenty of occasions where you can stick your tongue out and make as much noise as you want. The well primed audience needed no prompting to get involved and a challenge to hunt for pictures of the characters which runs throughout the performance kept the wee ones on their toes. It also provided moments of gentle slapstick that are always popular with young children. Surprisingly, the animals who are played by humans in costume, are utterly convincing, capturing the essence of each of the famous characters perfectly. Every appearance elicits unprompted cheering, oohing and aahing or sometimes some hissing and booing from the very young audience.
As well as the animals all the familiar human characters are here too: Mrs Plum and Samuel the butcher to name a few. Mrs Plum is the glue that binds the narrative together and the actress playing her radiated such natural warmth, like a granny or favourite auntie, that it was impossible not to be charmed by her. She gently steered the audience when it came to starting and stopping the interaction without the need for any off-putting bossiness. There's a good mixture of dialogue and song and lots of visual interest throughout to keep even the youngest members of the audience engaged. They have also exploited many theatrical - especially pantomime - conventions here; there are lots of 'it's behind you' and 'you can shout louder than that' moments that the children relish.
This is a highly polished operation: the story, set, costumes and actors exude class. What stands it head and shoulders above other children's shows doing the rounds in Edinburgh is that Nonsense Room Productions clearly understand their audience. Fans of the books will not be disappointed.