FRINGE REVIEW – The Ballad of Pondlife McGurk


Review by Alex McNaughton and Susan McNaughton

It was the turn of our 10-year old reviewer to have an opportunity to see a show today without the accompaniment of his teenage sister, so a chance to see something which was geared towards a younger audience. The performance selected was billed in the Fringe Programme as suitable for the age range 9+, which meant it was pitched at exactly the right level. We were somewhat surprised to see quite so many adults coming along without children to chaperone today, but the many smiling faces and congratulations being showered on the sole performer after the show gave a good indication that this tale appeals across the ages.

The set for the show is unusual in that the audience are invited to sit on one of four islands of carpet within the room (with some bench seating available for those who might prefer not to sit on the floor for the whole hour). In between the carpeted areas there are runways providing paths to wooden boxes which are used in various ways during the performance. This setting is particularly effective in drawing the audience immediately into the story, and ensuring rapt attention as eyes follow the storyteller around the room.

The story is performed by Andy Manley, one of the co-creators of this new work. He imitates various characters in the story to great effect using different accents and characterisation to ensure the clear distinction between them. Both of our reviewers felt that the strongest and most vivid character was the Primary 7 teacher – a sports enthusiast who encourages his class to try out for the school football team, and doesn’t have much appreciation of artistic endeavour. The story covers issues of loneliness and friendship, how friendships change as children grow, and how bullying affects both the bully and the victim. The entire audience was held in the thrall of the actor throughout the hour of the show, and we’re sure that anyone who sees this will have a most enjoyable time. It’s particularly suitable for children around the ages of 9 or 10, but adults will enjoy having memories of their schooldays reignited too.

An added bonus is that the venue at the Scottish Book Trust allows you to access the garden to the rear of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, which is a lovely quiet space to enjoy a pre-show picnic if you’ve brought your lunch along.

Our Junior reviewer’s comments: I really enjoyed this. The ballad of Pondlife McGurk is a story about two boys who become friends and break up. Made with one man… The epic story unravels as two men walk towards each other……

Until 26 August (not 20th) – at 1:30 pm at The Scottish Book Trust

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