JOYCE McMILLAN on CHARLIE AND LOLA’S BEST BESTEST PLAY at Dundee Rep, for The Scotsman 9.4.12
3 stars ***
DUNDEE REP has been celebrating Easter with a whole season of chldren’s shows; and this weekend, the theatre played host to the Watershed company from Cheshire, delivering a delightful if sometimes low-key version of the popular children’s television series based on the books by Lauren Child.
Touring on to Motherwell and Lochgelly this week, Charlie and Lola’s Best Bestest Play is a puppet version of the story, built around two gorgeous, instantly-recognisable cartoon cut-outs of Charlie, a quiet, sensible lad of seven or so, and his naughty little sister Lola, who has the kind of imagination that lights up the world, and causes a lot of trouble.
The show sometimes has trouble winning and holding the attention of the audience, mainly because of the odd decision to present the dialogue entirely through a recorded soundtrack of real children’s voices, charming in itself, but strangely disruptive of the direct relationship between the four onstage puppeteers – or the puppets themselves – and the audience.
There are moments, though, when Charlie and Lola speak clearly and directly enough to the audience to form a much more robust relationship. And then, this attractive show really soars, through Lola’s attempt to become a magician, through a brother-sister row that the children in the audence can’t wait to see resolved, and through the bedtime magic of Lola’s bubbly bath (with imaginary whales), and her final sleepy battle with a storybook ogre, that only her big brother can help her defeat.