Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Goodness, is it that time of year already? That time when entire families run franticaly around the shops loading up on presents for the family? That time when baubles, tinsel and unecessary plastic objects appear in every window? Bah! You know, when I think about it, the Grinch and I have quite a bit in common.
However, one Christmas tradition well worth preserving is the annual family trip to the theatre and, this year, first off the starting block in Edinburgh is the Festival Theatre, with this lush and lively adaptation of the Dr Seuss classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Of course, the problem with Seuss is that his slim volumes are so deceptively simple, they manage to effortlessly pack each complex tale into just a few cartoons and some amusing verse. This can create problems for those seeking to adapt his work for the stage. In order to achieve the necessary running time, it can often feel like too much padding has been added to the mix. But tonight, this is not the case: a musical is clearly an ideal way to spin the format out without loads of repetition.
First off, there’s a short introduction from Gregor Fisher, who reads a few pages of the book to a bunch of youngsters recruited from the audience. It’s not a particularly auspicious start, because the children aren’t really given anything to do but sit there and listen. However, as soon as the music strikes up and the Whos dance onto the stage, it’s clear that we’re in for an exhilerating ride. The songs are charming, and the choreography a delight. The costumes are eye-popping and the set design (based on the good Dr’s distinctive illustrations) provides a riot of festive colours.
Then on comes Old Max (Steve Fortune), the Grinch’s faithful hound who tells us the story of when he was Young Max (Matt Terry) and how, one fateful night, he was enlisted to aid the Grinch (Edward Baker-Duly) is his devious plan to kidnap Christmas and leave the Whos of Whoville bereft of Christmas cheer. Suess’s central message about the perils of consumerism is properly conveyed, together with the conclusion that Christmas should be (and can be) something much deeper than a mere trip to the shops. Whenever there’s a danger of it all becoming a little too sentimental, the script manages to pull things back to the right side of the line.
Baker-Duly gives us a splendid Grinch, slyly snarky and deliciously devious, thrilling the youngest members of the audience, while sneakily throwing in jokes for their parents. Special mention should be made of Isla Gie, playing Cindy Lou Who on the night we attend. The Grinch in me hates to use the word ‘adorable,’ but after some consideration, I really can’t think of a more apropriate one, and Gie comes dangerously close to walking off with the entire show.
As you’d expect from any Christmas production, TGWSC has all the pyrotechnics you could reasonably ask for, including a pretty convincing snowfall (I’d hate to be handed the task of cleaning it up afterwards).
Those looking for an enchanting festive night out for all the family will surely find what they want right here.