28 Sep 2005 in Dance & Drama
Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, on tour 2005
YOU’D EXPECT a children’s show produced by the bijou Mull Theatre to be a hand-knitted alternative to the Balamory juggernaut that is currently ploughing its way through the UK’s biggest theatres. Indeed, the tour of ‘Katie Morag’ – the first ever stage adaptation of Mairi Hedderwick’s island stories – is squeezing in to some of Scotland’s smallest venues, from a primary school in Kyle to a village hall in Arisaig.
But the interesting thing about catching it on its week-long run at Glasgow’s Citizens’ Theatre is to see how it has all the makings of a junior blockbuster just as popular as its TV spin-off rival.
Written by Lisa Grindall with songs co-written by director Gordon Dougall, the show animates the life of the island of Struay – closely modelled on the real life Coll – by means of a treasure trail pursued by young Katie Morag and her newly discovered Florida cousins, Dude and Princess. Their race for buried gold takes them from the post office and shop to Grannie Islands’ cottage – home to Eriskay, the horse – Mrs Bayview’s pristine garden and a castle haunted by mischievous cats.
In the process, the brattish Americans discover that rural life is not as boring as they’d supposed and Katie Morag learns not to judge her friends by their appearances.
… with jolly songs – cleverly switching between Broadway and Highland influences – and lots of joining in, it’s a happy, mainstream experience.
Though Anne Kidd and Ann Scott-Jones capture the contrasting flavours of the pernickety Grannie Mainland and the practical Grannie Island, much of Hedderwick’s gentle satire is set to one side. In its place is a cheery musical romp performed with bags of energy by Kirstin McLean as Katie Morag, with cheery support from Kevin Lennon and Claire Dargo as her cousins.
There’s a bit of a schism between the sophistication of the cousins and the innocence of the young audience at which the show is aimed, but with jolly songs – cleverly switching between Broadway and Highland influences – and lots of joining in, it’s a happy, mainstream experience. A shrewd commercial manager would do well to polish it up for a bigger scale tour.
Katie Morag tours in Highland venues until late October.
© Mark Fisher, 2005