Edinburgh Fringe 2019
With jolly hockey sticks and lashings of ginger beer already in place all we need is a title and an issue from the assembled throng. As we stand in a queue there is someone outside asking for ideas that are then put on cubes, sent out into the audience and then the audience have to throw them onstage. The one that gets in the basket has 6 possibilities. One is chosen by one of the troupe, and off we go. There is clearly a structure to be followed and there are stock characters from which to choose; it is after all, Enid Blyton, the woman whose writing vocabulary was not vast. We went off to the farm today to chase a ham; all of the ham was not to be eaten and lots of it was wonderfully onstage.
This is a sold out performance that is well aware of itself and that is why it works so brilliantly. There is nothing that surprises but there is plenty that is fresh. This is down to the easy relationships that each of our actors have with each other. It is an incredibly slick and fantastically fruitful set of liaisons that mine the depths of the Blyton cannon; which may in itself be a paradox.
The way in which the story of the drawing made by the randomly picked members of the audience who drew their sketch, is placed central to the story was sheer genius. Not only did we get cycles riding side by side in country roads we also got the fact that there were two of them who came up with the issue – the ideas one and the action one – and this was woven throughout the performance. They also used their names for the names of the two female kids – Jill and Sharon.
It is a performance piece that zips along with the boys there for hols, the girls trying to keep them out, the older characters being totally inappropriate as often as is possible and enough nods and winks that visually impaired bats could see what was coming next; generally laughter.
The production values are not, in anyway, stinted. he set and the props are great. The costumes precisely what you expect and though they may have stereotype written all over them, they have to be.
Highly polished it may be, and the depths of Enid Blyton may sound like an oxymoron but what this incredibly polished company have done is to take what is part of many of our childhoods and turn it into comedy gold. For that they deserve a lot of praise and have secured a safe place in our affections. It may not be a radical reimagining of the work of Blyton but nothing about Mallory Towers, the Famous Five, Secret Seven or the hundreds of novels she penned were ever meant to be radical.