IT'S not so much the spirit of Christmas birth as of Easter resurrection that possesses this Hans Christian Andersen adaptation by Catherine Wheels. It begins, delightfully, in a farmyard-cum-maternity unit where first pig, then horse, and finally mother hen are bringing their young into the world. Two piglets wobble out from beneath Gill Robertson's skirts, a floppy foal appears in Laurie Brown's field and, after much concentration, Veronica Leer fills an egg box with little white ovals. They're followed by another the size of a football – a misfit from the start.
Played by Brown in school shorts and grey balaclava, he'd just love to stretch his enormous wings and walk tall to a blast of flamboyant disco music. But his siblings are having none of it. If you've never felt intimidated by a rubber duck, you haven't seen this lot, lined up on the rooftop and squeaking in unison, a chilling vision of bullying intolerance.
So off goes the ugly duckling to find himself, seeing if he can fit in among moles, pedigree dogs or scavenging foxes. Whether they're hospitable or eager to eat him, he feels forever out of place.
Created by Andy Manley and Shona Reppe, this show for younger audiences could perhaps push the ugly duckling's sense of helpless despair even further (touching though the scene of wintry isolation is), but offers instead a charming metaphor about sexual liberation. This swan's awakening comes complete with a mirror-ball crash helmet and a wings-in-the-air dance to the Village People, a celebratory finale in which he is joyously allowed to be himself.
© Mark Fisher, 2012 (Pic: Niall Walker)
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