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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, September 05, 2010

White, theatre review

Published in Northings

Scottish Book Trust, Edinburgh, 5 August 2010, and touring

SOMETIMES the simplest ideas are the most powerful. As you would expect in a show aimed at two-to-four year olds, White does not take long to explain. It's about two men who live in an all-white world, looking after the all-white eggs they keep in all-white birdhouses. Everything is all right with all white until – shock! – a fresh egg shows up and it is all red. Much to the men's dismay, their universe is about to turn into colour.

Catherine Wheels, the Musselburgh-based children's theatre company, tells this story in just 35 minutes, yet it is hard to overstate how much territory the story covers and how exquisitely it is told. The actors perform with a light touch, an inventive wit and the smallest amount of language, but at the same time they tap into a deep and resonant theme about the caution and wonderment all of us feel, whatever our age, when faced with new experiences.

On one level, White is about the joy of colour; on another, it is a metaphor for our fear of the unknown, a fear that leads to parochialism, conflict and xenophobia or, if it is conquered, to harmony, richness and fulfilment.

Your three-year-old does not need to know that. In any case, they will be too entranced by the mysterious white landscape created by designer Shona Reppe using an oddball assortment of white materials, from lace to underwear to the toilet mats the men wear as trousers. Emerging from their white wigwam, they eat their milky white breakfast before tending to the small forest of white birdhouses and collecting the eggs that drop, magically, from the sky.

There are lots of lovely sight gags in the performances by Andy Manley as Cotton and Ian Cameron as Wrinkle, especially once they realise they are being overtaken by colour. As they make their private non-white discoveries, they go on a journey from prudish shock to naughty, secretive amusement, followed by wholesale embracement.

The masterful design allows the landscape to change around them, like the moment in The Wizard of Oz when the picture turns from monochrome to Technicolor and with a similar sense of our universe expanding.

White will play at Strathpeffer Pavilion (21 October), Macphail Theatre, Ullapool (15 November) and Mallaig & Morar Centre (17 November) as part of an autumn tour.

© Mark Fisher, 2010

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