Filled with colourful characters and original storylines, all set in the beautiful surroundings of Tobermory, BBC Scotland’s Balamory has become a firm favourite among toddlers in recent years. Cleverly transfer all those ingredients to the stage and the same audience is captured all over again.
To the children’s delight, all but two of the television cast are present, with only the actresses who play nursery teacher Miss Hoolie and the ever-energetic Josie Jump unavailable for the UK tour. Michele Gallagher and Rosemary Amoani turn out to be excellent replacements, both moving and grooving about the stage with the same enthusiasm as the rest of the ensemble. Beth Gilding provides the jolly choreography.
Writers Brian Jameson and Martin Waller’s story in Balamory is more general than usual in order to showcase as many of the characters and songs as possible. It is the right decision and the excited crowd rarely loses concentration for long. Director Waller ensures that the youngsters are more concerned about the ‘for no reason at all’ parade starting on time, and whether Miles Jupp’s Archie will be able to guide PC Plum (Andrew Agnew) and Edie McCredie (Juliet Cadzow) safely back from outer space in the inventor’s yoghurt pot rocket.
While the set designs and props are on the whole nicely designed, they do occasionally look low budget on the vast Apollo stage. Hardly up to the glitz of recent Disney offerings but it is unlikely this makes much difference to the children. And oh what a welcome change it makes to see the audience react to ‘real’ actors rather than larger than life representations of animated favourites.