Saturday, December 24, 2011

Among a plethora of pantomimes, The French Detective and the Blue Dog by Hattie Naylor is the delightfully-different seasonal production at The Egg in Bath, where the ovoid stage is transformed into a quaint street in pre-invasion Belgium. Enter the famous Parisian Inspector Charcuterie (brilliantly played with Jacques Cluseau hang-dog expression and ‘Allo ‘Allo accent by Chris Bianchi), off on holiday with his assistant mini-sleuth Minette, child genius and self-styled niece. The musical is full of jolly songs like "Let's solve the murder NOW!" but they don't get beyond the opening number before the first victim hits the stage, followed by most of the rest of this village where everyone is a secret circus performer. “There is no greater tragedy than not being able to do the thing you love, that’s why we’re all so hopeless at our jobs” says Fe-fe le Knife profoundly. Deeper than the clowning and comedy, the story touches movingly on human needs: Minette’s solo “I’ll be on my own again”, as her idiotic pseudo-uncle falls besottedly for Madame Spaniel and abandons his little charge, is real lump-in-the-throat time. 12-year old Flossie Ure, who took this key role on the performance I saw, was sensational in both her singing and her stage presence.
Billed as a family show for 6-and-upwards, younger children are unlikely to appreciate the Franglais Midsomer-Murders parodies but vibrant acting, superb script, and fabulous production values carry the show triumphantly through two hours with even the littlies (mostly) gripped. Rapid costume changes and clever props helped a marvellous trio (John Biddle, Paul Mundell, and Jessica Pidsley) create a medley of Belgian misfits and the nail-biting finale is sensational – it would be a spoiler to reveal how dazzling is the circus trick that ends the show.
The programme calls this a ‘world premiere’ which suggests it may travel – it certainly deserves to, but don’t chance it – go along to Bath before January 8th and be ready for much mirth and the odd sniffle.

So here we are, another Christmas. I hope you're having a good one as I write this, and have recycled all the bottles & gift wrappings and made-up all the rows by the time you read this. The year we called 2011 and messed up so thoroughly is nearly finished - time for a new one, box-fresh and shiny. Try and keep it clean this time...

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