Katie and the Mona Lisa – Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

Connie Nash (Mona) Kate Hume (Katie) Katie and the Mona Lisa, based on the book by James Mayhew, Planet Theatre Productions,  Wed 5th - Mon 31st August 2015, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Pleasance One- Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance, Edinburgh, EH8 9TJ, www.pleasance.co.uk, www.planettheatreproductions.com

Connie Nash and Kate Hume in Katie and the Mona Lisa, reviewed at the Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh

Katie and the Mona Lisa was presented at the Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh.

Star rating: three stars ★ ★ ★ ✩ ✩

This is a show with a great deal of charm, but by staying faithful to the book by James Mayhew, Adrian Brown’s text is anchored in London, so when the heroine, Katie, visits The National Gallery with her Gran, it isn’t the one on Princes St! And that seems a pity as this show has missed a trick for young Edinburgh audiences and the multitude of galleries in the city.

The plot revolves around Katie (Kate Hume) who is befriended by the Mona Lisa (Connie Nash), who magically comes to life. The duo searches for something to make the Mona Lisa smile again, while avoiding the Gallery Guard and Katie’s Gran. Their search takes them into classical paintings in a sort of Night At the Museum style with the paintings coming to life and ‘demonstrating’ their characters and context.

Unusually for a Fringe show, this production has a full ‘traditional’ stage set (designed by Julie Godfrey) to represent The National Gallery as a series of corridors and paintings. At times, the action seems a little limited to allow for scene changes to happen. Perhaps making a feature of these changes or having a ‘change theme’ for Katie and the audience to sing would help with the pauses (songs are by Adrian Brown and Robert Hainault). There is a lack of a chorus for the audience to join in with, missing a perfect opportunity to build a strong theme.

There are super performances here and the interaction with the children in the audience is delightful – lots of giggling, pointing and participation. Christopher Todd (Guard and Angel) and Chris Draper (Gran and Dragon) are particularly successful in creating a rapport with their audience. In the Pleasance Theatre space, there are occasional sightline problems for the little ones at the front as the edge of the stage is so high above them, but this could be easily solved with minor changes in direction.

There would seem to be great potential for this show as a Theatre in Education piece that can relate to local art for children to explore. The concept of the Mona Lisa on loan to the gallery can still be a central device, as can Katie, her Gran and the journey by public transport. I would love to have seen this production adapted further to relate to the Edinburgh setting.

Furthermore, this would open up the show to be adapted for a range of places with just a little more research and imagination to inspire children to see the ‘what if’ in works of art. The show is intending to tour in the future and the scope to relate at a local level or to develop scenes with children inspired by the show could be something magical: a great way to stimulate imagination and to generate interest in art for early years age groups.

Fiona Orr

Planet Theatre Productions

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