The Marathon Storytelling Cycle Challenge

The Marathon Storytelling Cycle Challenge

Children's Wood, North Kelvin Meadow, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

Superworm - the very long, very strong and ever so resourceful hero of Julia Donaldson's picture book for tinies - can do many remarkable things: alackaday, he can't stop cloudbursts and downpours. Rain did not stop play, however, at Friday's mid-morning launch of a marathon adventure, one worthy of Donaldson's own story-telling skills.

For Tam Dean Burn is now resolutely on his bike, following the route of the Queen's Baton Relay, and giving public readings of as many of Donaldson's works as he can manage along the way.

Friday morning, in the leafy oasis of the Children's Wood, dozens of little ones huddled from the rain under a canvas pavilion as Dean Burn - with Emma Schad on flute and Andy Alston (from the band Del Amitri) on accordion - delivered the Funny Face song, complete with silly grins and girns.

For those who know Dean Burn in his more serious acting roles, this was maybe an unexpected side to his talents. But back in 2012, when he was the central narrator in the NTS touring version of The Last Polar Bears, he totally captivated young (and adult) audiences with the sheer warmth, whimsicality and sincerity of his story-telling style. The nicely-pitched delivery of Superworm's jolly highs and scary lows was a similar treat.

When Julia and Malcolm Donaldson, with appropriately costumed chums, took to the stage for a Superworm singalong, the rain gave up - clearly too much sunshiney energy was being generated from under cover. Being read to is one of childhood's especial pleasures: being read to by Tam Dean Burn is magic, whatever your age.

l tour details at

The Pokey Hat

Alexandra Park, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

Could it be? Yes it is. Tinny chimes jingling invitingly - it's an old ice-cream van. On the outside, anyway, for clever hands have made it into a wee travelling theatre for Grinagog's new family-friendly show, The Pokey Hat.

Time was that an ice-cream cone - skooshed with runny raspberry sauce - WAS summer for young and old all across Scotland. And it's this flavour, in every sense, that is celebrated in the larky comedy, witty songs and daft antics of a show that incorporates a strand of happy nostalgia, thanks to the memories director Clare McGarry and her team sourced from Glasgow's East End as part of Culture 2014.

Martin O'Connor's script merrily turns the pleasures of a bygone era - going "doon the watter" to Rothesay, or using empty lemonade bottles as spendable currency - into some gleefully inventive set pieces.

A puppet-show mischieviously spoofs the Cinderella story in terms of a dropped cone, tenement life is gallusly evoked in contretemps between crabbit old Magrit and wee weans playing football in the back-court but maybe sweetest of all is the ice-cream parlour romance between clumsy Giorgio and smitten Sylvia: a slapstick episode where the "ecce un poco" song hints at the reason cones are called pokey-hats.

And the Scots-Italian connection gets more big licks in another song, a bravura listing of celebs from Paolo Nutini to Daniela Nardini and Nicola Benedetti.

Oliver Searle's music is, like the effervescent cast of Ross Allan, Isabelle Joss and Louise Montgomery, full of fun but - as adults will appreciate - painstaking and sophisticated with it. Truly cone-tastic (with a scoop of the real stuff as a blissful finish).

l Now touring - details at

Face, Jacquoranda double bill

Victorian Bar, Tron Theatre

Marianne Gunn

Horsecross Arts is sending two plays touring pubs, village halls and community centres while Perth Theatre is being redeveloped (its new studio space promises to host more offerings of new writing).

A foray into Glasgow city centre on a balmy Saturday night saw both playwrights, Peter Arnott and Alan Bissett, bring friends, family and close colleagues together to enjoy the contrasting double bill in the intimate space of the Tron's Victorian Bar.

Arnott's Face is arguably the more successful piece of new writing: craft-knife characterisation of Morag, an almost wholly embittered schoolteacher, explores interesting notions of self through the device of a more "successful" twin sister who has resorted to plastic surgery as the ageing process delivers its sucker punches.

"What's wrong with this face?" Morag (played by a perfectly cast Janette Foggo) asks the squirming audience, who are disallowed the cosy notion of a fourth wall and are captured in the relentless enquiry into toxic sibling rivalry. It is the quality of word play in Arnott's piece, however, that brings Morag's monologue alive; her reflections could be a masterclass in self-pity, but instead explore her joyless existence with a more tender touch.

Bissett's Jacquoranda also dispels notions of a fourth wall, but in a more awkardly interactive way. Feeling like an unwilling participant in a brainwashing group therapy session, Jacquoranda presents a hybrid of Ab-Fab sensibilities and new age wannabe tendencies.

The character appears vacuous enough, although vulnerabilities are gleaned in the more subtle moments of Louise McCarthy's physical performance, who again uses her fine singing voice to add nuance, especially with Elton John's Rocket Man which brought the short play to an abrupt close.