Oyster Boy review at Assembly George Square, Edinburgh – ‘good-natured physical theatre’
Oyster Boy was the debut show for talented all-female Haste Theatre, all the way back in 2013, and this revival is a perfect introduction to their brand of good-natured physical theatre.
Loosely based on the gleefully gruesome Tim Burton poem ‘The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy’, Haste have swapped out Burton’s neo-gothic tones for a 1950s American vibe, relocating the tale to a sun-splashed Coney Island and dropping doo-wops left right and centre.
Oyster Boy is at its best in the moments of shadow play where the titular shell-head swims in the ocean, or his appearances as a charming bunraku puppet. There are also plenty of soothing a cappella songs and some nice asides to the audience, but there’s nothing that raises much more than a titter, and Burton’s snippy narrative feels overstretched even at a little less than an hour.
It’s a great, unchallenging show for kids, even if it doesn’t take full advantage of its grotesque source material. It’s performed with visible good humour, however, by a uniformly excellent international cast, and as a first show, it’s clear where their later more accomplished work has sprung from.