Saturday 8th October
Gala Theatre Studio
Review by Chase Miller
Upon arriving at Durham Gala Theatre I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Hey Presto! Walking into the theatre studio, I was greeted with 2 empty rows of seats and a large plastic mat before the stage. Judging from the stage layout and the grey, hand made décor, I could tell that a lot of effort had gone into whatever it was I was about to witness. Suddenly, and apparently all at once four minutes before the show was due to begin, the crowd began rolling in. It’s A large turn out, at least 40 people in the first wave alone, comprised of mothers, fathers and their children.
I felt perhaps a little out of place.
So after the parents and multitudes of children take their seats (for the latter, most of which are on the floor) the show begins. Not to my surprise, ‘Hey Presto!’ was mainly intended for a younger audience. This is not at all to say it was bad, in fact even I enjoyed it at times. The acting was genuine and accessible, and the audience interaction (e.g. “Cmon, kids! Let’s get up and dance!”) was endearing rather than uncomfortable.
Presto the magician cat and his friend Monty the dog (“Oh, monty!”) are BFFs in the Alley, living off whatever they can find. Compared to other children’s shows I’ve been to, it was refreshing to see that this production actually had a plot with some depth to it, despite its quite cheesy, ‘two-friends-against-the-world, rags-to-riches, one-friend-gets-kinda-cocky, they-fall-out, non-cocky-one-saves-the-day, they-learn-the-value-of-friendship-and-ride-off-into-the-sunset’ plotline.
Obviously, an audience of five year olds aren’t going to be looking too hard into said plot, and it has a nice message overall, so I say it’s well done. The characters are loud, friendly, and likeable. Even I felt for Presto when his friend left him to become famous. All the actors are musicians, and I thought the makeshift band they had at the start was cute, with the drum kit made of boxes, and the tiny pink ukulele. It really helped to create a happy and whimsical atmosphere.
Overall, Hey Presto! is a well done play. It confronts fame and friendship, and is engaging for its younger audience, while also being entertaining enough to keep the older members of the audience interested. The music too, was particularly well done and the play does well to showcase that its actors are all skilled musicians as well as performers.