The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock, review
Mark Brown finds this promenade production of the National Theatre of Scotland’s production of The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish very high quality.
Promenade theatre – in which audience members follow the actors on a pedestrian journey – is a theatrical form which is brilliantly suited to the inquisitiveness and sense of adventure of young children. A fact of which we are reminded delightfully by the National Theatre of Scotland’s latest show, which began its tour at the newly opened Beacon Arts Centre (a beautifully appointed venue with spectacular views over the Clyde estuary).
Based upon outstanding children’s author Neil Gaiman’s book The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, and created for kids aged six and over, director Lu Kemp’s production is totally hilarious and engrossing. From the moment that self-proclaimed boy genius Neil decides to swap his Dad (unresponsive man ensconced in newspaper) for his friend Nathan’s goldfish (pretty creatures which seem to pay more attention to Neil than Dad does) we’re set on an odyssey.
One swap leads to another as we pursue Dad. We meet the likes of crazy girl Vashti (who swapped Dad for a gorilla mask) and eccentric millionaire boy Blinky (who exchanged Neil’s father for a huge white rabbit called Galveston).
Travelling along corridors, up stairs, and, even, in an elevator, we follow Neil and his sister from one of designer Laura Hopkins’s imaginatively designed rooms (wonderfully inspired by Gaiman’s illustrator Dave McKean) to another. Live music and song, which often entails audience participation, helps us charmingly and comically on our way.
The entire production – from its beginning in Neil’s decidedly two-dimensional house – has a gloriously off-beat cartoonishness about it. Laurie Brown is deliciously and absurdly conceited as Neil, while Veronica’s Leer’s mad, mud-eating sister is an absolute joy. They receive fabulous support from Rosalind Sydney and Antony Strachan in a panoply of roles, ranging from a less-than-bright police officer to the Queen of Melanesia; Strachan’s sudden, pink-rimmed spectacled appearance as the flirtatious (and clearly quite bonkers) Vashti is a particular delight.
Site-specific, promenade work presents theatre makers with particular technical challenges. If Kemp’s production runs as smoothly in the other five venues of the tour (including the National Museum of Scotland, during the forthcoming Imaginate children’s theatre festival in Edinburgh) as it did at the Beacon, she should be given a medal. This is children’s theatre of a very high quality. Swap your Dad for a ticket.
Touring until June 1. For further information, visit: nationaltheatrescotland.com
This review was originally published on the website of the Daily Telegraph on April 29, 2013
© Mark Brown