The Voice Thief

The Voice Thief

Summerhall, Edinburgh

Mary Brennan

Oh good, you think, during our tour of the Mackenzie Institute for the Encouragement of Vocal Harmony - the little ones at the front will get pounced on first, if there are to be any vocalising trials.

What's actually pounced on (and this applies to all ages) is our imagination. From the moment we get decontaminated - to remove the outside filth from mouths and ears - to the battle of wills between the (deceptively) charming Dr Mackenzie and his increasingly bolshie daughter Beatrice (Jenny Hulse), this new Catherine Wheels production hooks us and spooks us as we promenade through Summerhall's basement spaces.

Designer Karen Tennent's own imagination has gone into mega-warped overdrive, filling customised rooms with cod-scientific apparatus and quirky clutter. You'd squeal with delight only Dr Mackenzie (Ian Cameron) doesn't like loud, ugly voices and he has ways of making them go away. Scary ways.

Watch the doctor at work, operating to remove the whiny notes from a strident girlie's vocal chords, and Doctor Nice becomes Doctor Nasty, out to deny females - not lads - of their right to speak out, protest or complain.

Gill Robertson's epic intentions are realised in all their grotesque humours and tingly-shivery menace by a creative team who even allow Dr Mackenzie to make a song-and-dance about his successes.

There's lots of fun laced through a narrative that promenades on the dark side when Beatrice starts hearing her dead mother's voice, and lots of inventive visual trickery that, unlike screen special effects, thrills in real time.

In all, a fabulous fantasy you want to shout about, at decibels that would pain Dr Mackenzie.