Toy stories

23rd August 1996 at 01:00
Anne Cowan on puppets and magic. Ian Turbitt from Glasgow meets Maisie's Festival Friends in a one-man, one-spider glove puppet show. A short preamble, a few questions to the audience and we all learn the song about the kippers and the spam. We join in the chorus with gusto; we shout "Hullo Maisie!". Everyone under the age of eight involuntarily points, does the actions of Incy Wincy Spider and waves goodbye at the appropriate time. It is all as homely and familiar as Maisie's Fair Isle jersey and kilted skirt. The wee ones shriek their appreciation of Waldo the spider, laugh at Madame Grizelda, the festival diva, and love Maisie above all others.

Mrs McKitty is author Aileen Paterson's own favourite creation. This Morningside matron indulges in preventative cleaning, roundly abusing any speck of dust, but reserving her deepest contempt for "that dreadful place, Glasgow". Mrs McKitty is perjink; Maisie is called a wee toerag. It's the language central Scotland knows and loves.

Ninian, a ginger cat, is something else. He's cool and streetwise, a nice little mover and heavily into rap. Jill Kyle-Keith from Maryland is confident too. She does not hide her talent behind a black curtain. In Smashing Crokery, Ninian is a glove, and the Possets, an inn-keeping couple in provincial America, are rod-puppets. Kyle-Keith narrates, moves the characters and speaks the dialogue. The Possets, their miserly neighbours and the goblin Snafu act out a delightful story about a toby jug which breaks.

In all, there are three tales, all on the theme of smashing crockery. Each is completely different in presentation. The Ant and the Grasshopper are marionettes. The industrious ants' crockery factory is like a domed dolls house with springy little workers and a potter's wheel inside.

In a theatre when the houselights go down and the footlights shine, there is excitement in the air. Darkness is an ingredient in the formula which keeps attention on to the stage. The daylight streaming into the hall of the Royal Mile Primary robbed Rumpelstiltskin of much of its magic.

This was a play with no puppets, but a cast of four. The acoustics were not good and, at times, noises off and voices on cancelled each other out. Dialogue tended to be over loud and several children covered their ears, even during some of the speeches. It was fortunate that all present were likely to be familiar with the plot, as delivery was quick, even to the adult ear. Other than the effects, thunderclap noises and so on, there was nothing which could be called special about this production. However, the target audience seemed to enjoy the show.

Ian Turbitt's Puppet Theatre: Maisie's Festival Friends. Netherbow TheatreBeale Street Puppets: Smashing Crockery: A Trio of Tales. Cafe RoyalGlobe Players: Rumpelstiltskin. Royal Mile Primary

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