The Ballad of Pondlife McGurk

Sitting cross-legged on a little blue section of carpet, with clumps of other children around me, I felt transported back to my days at primary school, excited to see what was in store for me. The charming, tiny venue of the Scottish Book Trust creates a lovely atmosphere for an hour of delightful storytelling fun from the very talented Andy Manley. The audience are ushered in and encouraged to sit closely together on the carpet, and as it was a full house, I really did feel like I was in the tiniest of ponds.

Catherine Wheels Theatre Company completely understand what it takes to keep a child interested, without the use of props, set, big sounds or even more than one performer, which I think is extremely impressive. One man, Andy Manley, who has an extraordinary ability to capture the attention of both adults and children alike, performs the entire show. Relying only on his storytelling ability, his physicality and his skill with accents, he draws the audience in and starts the tale of two men, who are staring at each other across an airport departure lounge. He then reminisces back to how these two men got there and tells the tale of two boys at primary school, Martin and Simon, and the growth and development of their close friendship.

The beauty of this performance is that I am sure that it summoned old memories from everybody’s school days, because it certainly did for me. From the two girls who bullied everyone to ‘claim the back of the bus’ on the school trip or that one child who always got coach sick and made the journey length double in time, this show is a little piece of personal childhood for everyone. Essentially an hour monologue, with the occasional physical section, performed with such commitment and passion; you couldn’t help but grin with fond recollection of your own days in the playground. The text is superbly written by Rob Evans, such intense, vivid descriptions make everything seem so much more real and it is delivered with absolute conviction and energy by Manley, who’s audience interaction had the children giggling and squirming in their seats.

Cleverly, well-placed interludes of music set the tone for the piece and sound effects were used efficiently and not unnecessarily. ELO’s ‘Mr Blue Sky’ played an essential part in the climax of the show, as Manley convincingly acted out the fun and adventures of school summer holidays.

This show is a masterpiece for children and adults alike. You’ll smile, laugh, sigh and fondly think back to your school days all on the comfort of soft carpet. Beautiful stuff from the big fish, Manley will leave you in awe of his talent.

Since you’re here…

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The Blurb

‘A really touching family show’ (List). **** (Herald). Recently returned from Sydney Opera House, this is a coming-of-age tale about friendship, bullying and overcoming adversity.

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