Although Lynley Dodd’s Hairy Maclary stories have never been among Miss Ritz’s favourites, we had good reasons for taking her along to Nonsenseroom’s “Hairy Maclary & Friends”. Their shows for grown ups at Rosslyn Chapel were highlights of our Fringe trips for many years, and Waldorf had seen their “Hairy Maclary” show with some friend’s little ones a few years back. So we knew this would be high quality stuff.
Unlike so many character based shows for children, this one doesn’t take the puppet option (with the exception of Zachary Quack the duck). As well as the two human characters, all of the dogs (and cat) are performers in costume. Being so used to similar shows operating with very small casts I was initially incredibly impressed by the impossibly quick changes the performers were making - until it dawned on me that this is a full company of seven actors – which eventually allows all of the canine friends on stage at once. For years I’d mocked one of the little ones (old enough to know better) that had accompanied Waldorf previously for asking at the end “Were they real dogs?” but I have to admit that from more than a few rows back both Hairy Maclary and Muffin McLay are pretty convincing! And the set is also several cuts above the usual efforts – with some very cleverly created obstacles and an ingeniously designed multi-purpose picket fence.
It’s a charming show to watch as a child or adult – in part of course due to Dodd’s writing and characters – but also because of the framework that holds the stories together. Miss Plum and Sam Stone the Butcher act as our narrators and keep the youngsters in the audience fully involved while calling back to old school panto routines to boost the nostalgia factor for the adults. Our Miss Ritz really enjoyed it, but I do have to issue a little parental warning about the show. At two-and-a-half, Miss Ritz can be a sensitive little soul at times and she found Scarface Claw a little on the scary side. She also gets quite emotionally involved so had a couple of quiet tears rolling down her cheek when (spoilers ahead) Schnitzel von Krumm lost his comfortable old basket. Of course the biggest tears of the afternoon were when she didn’t want it to end, but fortunately the cast recording CD made for an acceptable substitute (and we felt was well worth the £10 we paid for it). And although photographs were not permitted during the show, at the curtain call we were encouraged to take pictures which Miss Ritz will enjoy looking at later.
Nonsenseroom have made an amazing success of this show with several runs at the Fringe and UK and overseas tour, but I still miss those summer evenings at the Fringe and their freezing cold Christmas shows at Rosslyn. The Hairy Maclary tour has now finished but info on future tours will available on the Nonsenseroom website. They also have a new show at this year’s Fringe – The Shark in the Park.