Sometimes the bells and whistles of huge stage productions can leave us cold. Pantos are often too eager to draw in parents with adult references. The simplest, sweetest and well-crafted children’s shows can win over hearts just as much as the big budget affairs.
Ofegus Theatre’s Daylight Robbery at Smock Alley Theatre is one such show. It isn’t the usual damsels in distress marrying princes though. As well as witches and villains there are karate-chopping fairies and high-fiving spies.
Set in the kingdom of Enchantasia, the title hints at the fact that the sun has been stolen. It’s up to Wendy Witch (the effervescent Niamh Hogan) and her motley royal crew to venture through the Ferocious Forest to Earthcrux. Here they will face the terrifying Empress Incandescence (a convincing Emily Elphinstone), her minions and Wendy’s evil sister Wily Witch.
The brick walled space with balconies and arched windows lends itself perfectly to a fairy-tale production. There are no special effects and the scene changes are indicated simply by a swathe of gold fabric, or fairy lights. Most actors play two characters seamlessly. In fact, my kids wanted to know where everyone was for the final bow and couldn’t believe they were doubling up. They mightn’t be very bright though.
The highlight is undoubtedly Fairy Christmas (the fantastic, show-stealing Amy Flood) wiping out the minions with her high kicks and punches, all the time denouncing violence. There’s something for everyone, with hints of the ass-kicking fairy in Scrooged, Harry Potter spells, Hogan’s perfect Chitty Chitty Bang Bang clockwork doll and even Lord of the Rings when Incandescent says she will summon her orc and goblin armies. It is a refreshingly original show though and Leslie Lalor’s tight direction and clever script are complimented by the music, lighting and beautiful costumes.
Special kudos to Stephen Gorman who was so charismatic in the potentially dry role of General Strike . Liam McCarthy was hamtastic as the Prince/Duke and Sinead Heavin (Wily Witch) and Niall Bruton (General Amnesty) were effortlessly cool. Esther Seuss made the most of the watery Princess.
I set up a theatre company with friends many moons ago and it’s no mean feat. On the basis of this production, these young, enthusiastic performers should be commended. They’re playing a blinder on a shoestring budget with the toughest audiences around- kids.
The cast invited children up to meet them afterwards, and the Ofegus’ website – the word has no meaning – carries interviews in character. They’re very clear on what theatre should be: “A place of imagination and invention. We want our young audiences to learn to use their imaginations, broaden their horizons and believe that anything is possible.”
And the best part is, no one forces you to get up and sing Gangnam Style.
Review by Julie Melia
Adults €10 and Children/Concessions €8 to Nov 2nd