Solving the universal human problem of desperate loneliness lies at the heart of this latest production from renowned Scottish theatre company, Catherine Wheels. Based on the children’s book by Swedish author Barbro Lindgren, The Story of the Little Old Man, it tells of a man who moves to a new place but despite strenuous efforts just can’t make any friends.
A giant crate, ingeniously designed by Karen Tennant, and addressed on this occasion to the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street, delights with intriguing wee doors opening unaided and balloons being randomly blown through holes. The Gentleman, played with smiling eagerness by Pete Collins, puts out wanted ads in various languages to find a chum without success yet remains optimistic by playing the ukulele and keeping busy. He throws himself into housework, and feather dusters twirl through the crate that’s his home like a small dry carwash inducing plenty of squealing hilarity.
Typically, when he least expects it, a companion in the form of ‘man’s best friend’ bounds on the scene. Isabelle Joss creates cartoonish mayhem as The Dog with such canine gusto that she could have been an extra from the TV programme The Secret Life of the Human Pups as she gradually takes over the man’s life.
The budding relationship and dynamics is played out to a music score from Danny Krass that brilliantly reflects the turning of the seasons and the rollercoaster of emotions between the pair. While this tale could be seen as confirmation of the importance of a pet and the special relationship between man and beast, beneath that obvious message lies something more profound. The story of seeking togetherness;the lover and the beloved; the honeymoon and the fading of the bloom and of course the eternal triangle is played out with deceptive depth giving the piece layers of meaning to adult viewers beyond the tremendous fun enjoyed by the children in happy oblivion.
This fun filled affirming production manages to show the perils of careless love while giving the positive message of the wider pleasures of sharing friendships. Clever stuff indeed!
Age recommend 4-8 years. Performances continue at Southside Community Centre 31 May- 5 June with varying times – see http://www.imaginate.org.uk