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Theatre Review: Summer Holiday ***

Joy Watters reviews a production 'strong on enthusiasm and exuberance'.

The season at Pitlochry opens with new artistic director Elizabeth Newman’s production of Summer Holiday, a show she staged last summer while at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre, co-directing with Ben Occhipinti who joins her again.

In some ways it is a strange choice for Pitlochry which has built its musical reputation on polished productions of classics of the genre.

Based on the Cliff Richard 1960s film, it is light on characterisation and plot but boasts a barrowload of great pop songs. Newman goes for a concert party approach with her company of actor-musicians, encouraging the audience to clap and sing along from the word go.

Originally set in London where a group of bus mechanics take off to Europe aiming to use their bus as a hotel, here the base is Pitlochry to add a bit of local flavour. Indeed, the main thrust of the production is Newman’s aim to interact with the local community with a family-friendly entertainment. The cast frequently dives into the auditorium, runs through it and enters from the side.

There is masses of movement throughout as the cast dash to and fro but no actual choreographed big production numbers of the well-known melodies.

The mechanics pick up a singing trio and find a stowaway, a young female celebrity disguised as a boy. The journey through Europe is conveyed with famous landmarks being wheeled on and off with a static backdrop of flags shaped into beach huts in Amanda Stoodley’s design.

While there is not much for the ensemble to do in the way of acting, their strength lies in their musical ability. The stand out is Luke Thornton with his great guitar playing.

Often rough around the edges, this production is strong on enthusiasm and exuberance and the first night audience were of an age to throw themselves into singing the 60s hits.

Runs in repertoire until October 5.

Tags: theatre

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