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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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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Book of Beasts, Catherine Wheels review

Published in Northings © Mark Fisher

The Book of Beasts

ONE LOOK at Gill Robertson's face and you know you're in for a feelgood time. Before the show has even begun, the actor and mainstay of Catherine Wheels theatre company seems to have caught everyone in the eye and made all of us her friend.

In this adaptation of a children's story by E Nesbit (of Railway Children fame), she steps in and out of character, one minute drawing us into the tale as a wide-eyed narrator, the next playing a genial nurse in charge of a boy who would be king.

Like all children of his age, Lionel occasionally has to step up from his playroom games to take on new challenges. His challenge, however, is more onerous than most. When Ian Cameron's prime minister calls by with the news that the king is dead, Lionel, being next in line to the throne, has to take his turn as head of state.

Played by Scott Turnbull with the charm of a boy always trying his best, Lionel finds his new role an exciting, if tiring, adventure, although it takes him time to adjust to his new responsibilities.

Recalling the myth of Adam and Eve, Nesbit's tale is about the difficulty of resisting temptation. Having disobeyed the prime minister's instructions not to open the mysterious Book of Beasts, Lionel must deal with the consequences. When a raft of wild animals, including a hungry dragon, escape from the pages, causing havoc among his people, he must sort out the problem and learn to become a fuller, more responsible human being in the process.

Although the detail of how he defeats the dragon is a little rushed, Jo Timmins' production has a delightfully fluid, let's-pretend quality, relying on simple means and the audience's imagination to create everything from butterflies to hippogryphs.

David Trouton's lively score is to the fore (mixed rather too loud on the day I saw it), setting a rhythm the actors follow with choreographed precision. It's a simple story that could do with greater emotional range, but it's one enjoyed by audiences aged five and considerably older in a performance of much charm.

(The Book of Beasts visits Strathpeffer Pavilion, 31 March; Mallaig and Morar Community Hall, 22 April; Macphail Centre, Ullapool, 23 April; Eden Court, Inverness, 24 April; Lonach Hall, Strathdon, 3 May; Lossiemouth Village Hall, 7 May; Perth Theatre 25 May. See webiste below for full tour details)

© Mark Fisher, 2009

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