Bring back the baddies, they're good
It is not often that you watch a show and find yourself willing the baddies to come back on stage. But in Stuart Paterson's adaptation of The Princess and The Goblin, now showing at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre, this is indeed the case.
The audience stirs that little bit more when the three goblins are about. Although they are nasty to look at and mean to the leading lady, they are without a doubt very entertaining.
When we first meet them - King Cob (Malcolm Shields), Queen Mam (Shonagh Price) and Crown Prince Krankl (Alec Westwood) - climbing up from their underground lair in a puff of smoke, their appearance is both startling and funny: ugly masks, long red hair, kilts for the men and a tutu for the queen. They are crude and rude. They hit each other, step on each other's toes and are flatulent - there are noises to emphasise everything they do - but they certainly liven up the stage.
That is not to say that when the rest of the cast are present the show isn't as enjoyable. In fact, all the characters are successfully brought to life.
Clare Yuille plays a convincing Princess Irene. She is very childlike as she jumps around on stage and plays tricks on her strict nurse, Lootie. She starts off being spoilt and bored but soon grows up and shows that she is kind-hearted and keeps her promises.
And there is something very magical about her great-grandmother, played by Eileen McCallum. When she first appears in her sparkling gown with the spotlight shining on her spinning wheel, you could be forgiven for thinking you were watching Sleeping Beauty, but not so.
This tale, written by George MacDonald in 1872, is about the adventures of a young princess. The local people work as miners and are plagued by the goblins, who live underground. Princess Irene gets bored in the palace, all alone, and decides to go exploring. She encounters the goblins, who try to kidnap her, and is saved by a miner's son named Curdie Peterson (played by Andrew Clark). Later, when he is captured, she is the one who comes to his rescue. There are also loveable characters such as Fannon the dragon and, one to really hiss at, the sneaky spy Sly.
There are underlying themes in the tale which children may not grasp; however, there is a clear message of the conflict between good and evil, and the moral virtues of always telling the truth, keeping your word and admitting your faults are often highlighted.
The whole show, directed by Tony Cownie, is filled with word games, humour and magic. There is plenty of audience participation, in the style of "Oh yes we are. Oh no you're not", but that is as far as the traditional pantomime goes.
The show is a delight to watch, in terms of character and costume as well as the set. The mountains are effectively highlighted with a backdrop of shimmering stars and at other times you feel as if you are wandering around the palace with Irene or trying to get out of the goblins' den.
There are plenty of things to talk about back in the classroom and the programme (pound;2) is packed with puzzles, recipes and things to do to keep the memory of the show alive.