Summer Holiday

Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Neil Cooper


THE stage-spanning image of an Elizabeth Yule Pitlochry bus parked outside Pitlochry Festival Theatre’s front door speaks volumes about the new broom approach of PFT’s incoming artistic director Elizabeth Newman at the start of her inaugural production. Shopping local, it seems to suggest, is just as important as the tourist trade which traditionally provides the most picturesque emporium in Scotland with much of its bread and butter. In this sense, Newman and co-director Ben Occhipinti’s suitably frothy revival of Michael Gyngell and Mark Haddigan’s stage version of this classic piece of 1960s big-screen pop bubblegum is making a statement of sorts.

As too are the show’s all-singing, all-dancing quartet of likely lad mechanics led by David Rankine’s toothsome himbo Don, who are looking to up sticks from small town Perthshire and see the world. This they do, not just by wielding a miniature bus around the auditorium as one might lead a Conga, but by bike and, eventually, by goat-filled boat too.

Along the way, the crazy kids bump into a broken-down boy/ girl group as well as Lynwen Haf Roberts’ on-the run starlet Barbara. In some of the show’s most delightfully cartoonish scenes, she is chased by Barbara Hockaday’s pushy showbiz mom Stella and her sidekick Gerry, with both borders and dresses being crossed as they go.

One is tempted to see Brexit metaphors a-go-go here in terms of freedom of movement, holiday amours and all the baby boomer nostalgia that brings with it on Amanda Stoodley’s flag-lined old-school Eurovision style set. In the end, however, it’s the songs that make this well-buffed look at a seemingly more innocent age so infectiously endearing. And it’s actually the title track from another Cliff Richard flick, The Young Ones, that captures the you-and-me-against-the-world essence of romantic yearning that drives the show the best.

While smaller than PFT’s usual musical fare, as a calling card for summer holidays to come, Newman and Occhipinti’s playful take on teenage dreams of leaving promises much for the future, whatever the weather.