THE BALLAD OF RUDY
by Matt Borgatti lyrics & music by Will Dollard, Mary Erskine, David Lydon.
Royal Exchange Theatre Studio St Anne’s Square M2 7DH To 3 January 2016.
11.30am & 1.30pm 27-31 Dec 2, 3 Jan.
3.30pm 26 Dec, 1 Jan.
Runs 1hr No interval.
TICKETS: 0161 833 9833.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 22 December.
Real cool Christmas show for really young audiences.
This thoroughly enjoyable, strongly performed show splendidly introduces 3+ audiences to theatres – and, indeed, cabaret. Goblin theatre first beat its feet three years ago in Chelsea and it’s been wisely picked-up by the discriminating Royal Exchange in their searching-out of first-rate imaginative and innovative studio Christmas shows for the younger end of seasonal audiences.
Apart from extending theatre for the very young into the world of jazz styles, the piece focuses on audiences who are about to start the pre-statutory part of a school system that, here and now, is all too likely to push conformity and the race for linear levels in the approved manner. Rudy shows that what you are rather than what you’re told to learn is the best way ahead.
Rudy arrives at Polar reindeer school, red nose and all, late and confused. He’s immediately confronted by a music teacher who spells-out the rules and beats-out the time-signatures of approved music, always holding-up the example of Rudy’s star predecessor as a role-model for emulation.
It’s clear that, however willing, Rudy will never succeed in being something somebody else once was. That way madness, or at least distraction, lies. Luckily, when abandoned by the impatient pedagogue, Rudy comes across other ice-cap creatures, who’ve found their own ways to success with their own singing styles, and tries them out.
The point is that these are enthusiasts, who sing because it’s their style, their nature, and they want to pass on their joy in music. Rudy’s encouraged once he finds the chance to try things out for himself.
The audience learns something of jazz styles as Rudy does, though there’s hesitancy over that baneful expectation of panto-time, audience involvement. It’s one thing for an adult actor who’s rehearsed the piece to start going with the swing, another for a young, disparate audience to pick it up from the start en masse.
But a lot of shows could do with more care over audience involvement. At least this one suggests having a go is fun, while the performances, acted and musical, hold young people’s attention, and repay their concentration, throughout.
Rudy: Peter Mooney.
Jazz Penguin/Ole Polar Bear: Yana Penrose.
Mrs Hoo/Fitz/Nina: Hollie Cassar.
Director: Andrew Barry.
Designer: Katie Scott.
Lighting/Sound: Ali Armstrong.
Composers: Will Dollard, Mary Erskine, David Lydon.