‘Tis the season of theatrical family fayre, when children’s stories are plundered for festive productions, with often mixed results.
Inkheart started life as a novel by Cornelia Funke, evolved into a successful film, and now struts its stuff as a lively Christmas play. It tells the tale of twelve-year-old Meggie (Katherine Carlton) and her father, Mo (Paul McEwan), whose ‘Silvertongue’ status means that, when they read aloud, characters step from the pages of their books, and blunder into the real world. Meggie and Mo embark upon a desperate quest to save the last copy of the eponymous book, protecting it from the villains who wish to destroy it.
The set comprises a mountain of books, with shelves and steps cunningly concealed. It rotates and tips, and is used effectively to represent a home, a library, a beach and a car; it’s really quite a lovely thing. And the production starts well: the narration (provided by Kelly Hotten) is clear and engaging, and the disruption of Meggie’s world by the appearance of the mysterious Dustfinger (Andrew Sheridan) is nicely unsettling. Carlton is uncannily convincing as a twelve-year-old, and Rachel Atkins, as Elinor, is a comic delight.
Overall, it doesn’t quite work for me though. It’s not as light as it needs to be; it’s pedestrian when it needs to fly. The fire-juggling, for example, just isn’t spectacular enough, and the panto-villain antics of Basta and Flatnose (Darryl Clark and Griffin Stevens), while competently done, seem at odds with the general tone. The magic isn’t… magical enough, the comedy too clumsy and the scary stuff just doesn’t scare.
Of course, as two adults, we are not the target audience. There were a lot of kids watching with us tonight, and they seemed to find it an utter joy. One for the children, then, but without much to commend it to the grown-ups accompanying them…