Recipe ingredients spiced up for all-day tour de force

13th September 1996 at 01:00
Hopscotch Theatre Company produces "formula theatre" for the whole primary school, and they would be the first to admit it. "Hard facts, a hundred jokes and a couple of action songs" is the recipe and, in the course of nine years and 23 productions, it has been mixed for people as diverse as the Sleeping Beauty and St Columba.

For the first time the company has gone "outside" for a writer, Chris Balance, who has had little difficulty concocting its current production of The Real Robinson Crusoe, the story of Alexander Selkirk of Fife.

Hopscotch is very strong on "real" stories, but this time, the problem for the "non-stop action" company is that almost the only interesting thing about Selkirk was his solitude.

Such minor problems, however, are brushed aside in a story where the years pass in the time it takes to fasten on a false beard. The show is swept along by the unflagging energy of the all-singing, dancing and playing cast of four, who switch between Fife fishermen, dominies, cats, conquistadores and English naval officers.

As always, Hopscotch plays to the whole primary school and its teachers. What is new is the pattern of spending a whole day in the school, giving a drama-based workshop to one class in the morning (I saw P5 in the Renfrew primary) before the afternoon performance in the hall.

There is also, for the first time, a teacher's pack with suggestions for 12 activities designed to explore themes and ideas from the play, and can be related to primary school work.

With a Lottery award of Pounds 22,000 in the bank, and eight sponsors' logos on the poster advertising this tour of daily performances, starting in Glasgow in August and finishing in West Lothian in November, you could be forgiven for thinking that life was sweet for Hopscotch.

But sadly, the tour has not been without its problems, all of them financial. The poster carries eight different logos where previously it would have had one, for Strathclyde Regional Council Setting up this tour when the new councillors were still arguing over parking places, exposed Hopscotch to the worst of the post-regional ad-hockery that came with local government reorganisation .

This experience, and the Scottish Arts Council's current moves to "franchise" the best of the small touring companies, has come close to persuading artistic director Grant Smeaton to opt out of unreliable public funding, and find, instead, commercial sponsors or educational buyers.

The Real Robinson Crusoe. Hopscotch Theatre Company. Touring August 20 to November 8. Bookings on 0141 440 2025

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