Review: Black Beauty, Purcell Room South Bank Centre
- Credit: Archant
Charm invention and wit abound in this clever framing of Anna Sewell’s equine tale and the fate of a pantomime horse called Hamish
Traverse and Redbridge Theatre's delightful canter through Anna Sewell's much-loved equine tale is packed with wit, charm and quirky storytelling to please big and small theatregoers alike.
The rather dark story of a loyal, plucky horse from first faltering footsteps to old age is sketched out in a few snippets of beautiful theatrical invention by a pair of itinerant Irish brothers who are two halves of a pantomime horse.
It's the framing story of 'Equine Illusionists' Andy and Andy McCuddy and their beloved nag Hamish that hogs most of the sugarlumps in a set-up that sees them camped by the side of the M25 in a horsebox awaiting the call for work.
That theatre producers now prefer Daisy the Cow to a bona fide Panto horse in their seasonal shows is just one of the running gags for these 'resting' vaudevillians.
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Adept physical comics, Paul Curley and John Currivan recount episodes from the book, Beauty's early years in clover-filled fields are told using wellington boots, a hell for leather night ride to fetch a doctor for his pregnant mistress takes a gallop through the audience and makes genius use of a net curtain.
And his rescue of stablemate Ginger from a burning stall is breathlessly told with canny lighting effects. The grimmer elements of abuse and whippings are glosssed over in favour of a light-hearted rapport between the two Andys which also jetisons some of the book's more interesting qualities.
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But long before you get to the final footage of Hamish starring in Spielberg's latest blockbuster, you will be won over.