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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Something Wicked this Way Comes

© Mark Fisher - published in The Guardian

Something Wicked This Way Comes
Dundee Rep
4 out of 5

As every reader of Pinocchio knows, there is not a boy who can resist the pull of a funfair. When the carnival comes to town it brings the promise of something magical, transgressive, illicit; the possibility of escaping everyday life for easy rewards and sensual pleasures. That is the allure of Cooger and Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show when, heralded by the smell of candyfloss and a midnight lightning storm, it arrives in an Illinois backwater in Ray Bradbury's classic 1962 novel.

Who would not want to see themselves reflected a hundredfold in the mirror maze or watch the tattoos writhing on the skin of the Illustrated Man? But this funfair has a more sinister promise: a Faustian opportunity to meddle with time in return for your soul. For teenagers Jim Nightshade and Will Halloway, that could mean fast-forwarding to adulthood; for Will's dad, it is a chance to reclaim his youth.

The wickedness, in other words, is not only embodied in the form of the tattooed Mr Dark, creepily realised here by Andrew Clark like a malevolent Willy Wonka, but also in the good guys who must wrestle with temptation before finding the strength to laugh at their own mortality.

On stage, the battle between good and evil edges the story towards pantomime, but such is the meticulous attention to detail of Gill Robertson's production for Catherine Wheels and the National Theatre of Scotland that we never lose sight of the seriousness of the struggle. Whether it is the Bible that bursts into flames, the nightmarish back-projections, the moody laments of the live score or Karen Tennent's wooden set which so seamlessly mutates from suburban street to evil merry-go-round, every aspect of the production is consummately realised to create a haunting and heartening piece.

© Mark Fisher, 2008

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