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Reviews: Theatre

Kidnapped

Kidnapped

Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock

Neil Cooper

There's something irresistibly invigorating about Robert Louis Stevenson's historical romp, first published in 1886. Dressing it up as a Boys' Own style adventure was a master-stroke, and by putting young David Balfour in the thick of a plot that involves political intrigue, Jacobite rebellion and considerable macho swagger, Stevenson created something akin to a Look and Learn of its day that has captured the imaginations of would-be Davies ever since.

The ambitious Sell A Door company takes the book's spirit and runs with it in Anna Fox's big, bold production of Ivan Wilkinson's new stage version, which opened its extensive tour last week. There's already something of a commotion onstage as the audience enter to the cast belting out a song on fiddle, guitar and pounding percussion as if they were a punk-folk ceilidh combo in full pelt. This is just a curtain-raiser, however, to allow the older Davie to spin a yarn about his colourful past to entertain his guests.

As Stewart McCheyne's young Davie sets off on what turns out to be the ultimate rites of passage, the rest of the multi-tasking cast of five unveil a world which, no matter how far Davie roams, is forever defined by the giant map of Scotland that hangs in a frame at the back of the stage. It's a fast-moving ride, with puppetry, music and stylised movement played out on a set where walls become a ship in an instant.

Balfour and Simon Weir's Alan Breck, who struts the stage as cocksure as a young Iain Cuthbertson, form a swashbuckling dynamic duo in a complex tale of loyalties that go beyond politics to something deeper.

West Side Story

King's Theatre, Glasgow

Alison Kerr

As we all know from watching Singin' in the Rain, it's hard to take a romantic lead seriously if he or she has a comedy voice - and one of the problems with the production of West Side Story which is currently running at the King's Theatre is that although the male romantic lead looks like Farley Granger or some other sallow-skinned, appropriately 1950s, matinee idol, his speaking voice conjures up the high-pitched, see-saw intonations of comedian Emo Philips.

Which is a great shame because when Louis Maskell delivered his character Tony's ballads, they were among the most moving moments of the show.

Of course, West Side Story is not short on moving moments - and it's to the credit of the cast and orchestra that those moments were affecting even though they had to contend with potential mood-spoilers both onstage (the scenery being shunted offstage during the last notes of Tony and Maria's haunting duet One Hand, One Heart) and in the audience (a Mexican wave of competitive sweetie-paper rustling during Tony's poignant song, Maria).

As for the performances, it was less a case of the Jets vs the Sharks and more of the girls vs the boys. And it was the girls - in particular a captivating and commanding Anita (the dynamic Djanlenga Scott provided the singlemost memorable performance in the show) - who held the lead right from the start on both the singing and dancing fronts.

Also worthy of note were the costumes - the Puerto Rican girls' flamenco-like dresses provided a riot of colour - and the superb rendering of Leonard Bernstein's music by the band.

Run ends on Saturday.

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