Black Beauty, Traverse, Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show details
Red Bridge
Andy Manley, Andy Cannon and Shona Reppe (writers), Shona Reppe (designer) Alice McGrath (producer), Ian Cameron (collaborator), David Trouton (composer and sound designer), Simon Wilkinson (lighting designer) , Sandy Butler (filmmaker)
Andy Manley (Andy McCuddy), Andy Cannon (Andy McCuddy)
Running time

Flann O'Brien’s gloriously comic novel The Third Policeman contains the strange and memorable concept “…that people who spent most of their natural lives riding iron bicycles… get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle… and you would be surprised at the number of people … who are nearly half people and half bicycles.”

A similar metamorphosis has taken place in the two McCuddy Brothers, the pair of Equestrian Illusionists who come from a long line of Cuddys (Scots for ‘horses’) and whose movements and gestures are decidedly ‘half man half cuddy’.

And it’s a bicycle, a tandem to be precise, that introduces us to Andy and Andy McCuddy (not a Jock McCuddy from the old Glasgow song in sight - ‘it’s a family thing’) played by the dynamic duo of Scottish children’s theatre, Andy Cannon and Andy Manley.
The brothers and their equestrian alter ego, Hamish the Pantomime Horse, are out of work. They and their horsebox are stranded at the Maybury Roundabout desperate for a call to offer them work. The calls come all right – from the King’s in Edinburgh; the Pavilion in Glasgow – but they all want a pantomime cow. Horses are just so yesterday.

In desperation, Andy and Andy set up a no- car boot sale to help make ends meet and it’s at this point that the real magic begins. Among their limited belongings is a copy of the children’s classic Black Beauty and opening its old pages creates the surreal interweaving of the actual story of Black Beauty with the life of the horse obsessed duo.

Sounds ridiculous? Sounds impossible? Well, thanks to the inventive pens of Manley, Cannon and Shona Reppe, who brings her unique skills to the show’s design, this incredible feat has been pulled off with whinnying brilliance. Simple props are metaphors for, among many things, horses, fields and stalls all brought to believable life thanks to the double Andy act that makes full use of the space in Traverse 1 getting right in among the audience at times.

This unique Traverse Christmas show holds the gift of being unashamedly Scottish but with the capacity to telescope out to the wider world in its very title. It is stappit fu of local references from cab trips to Portobello; Crombie’s in Broughton Street andJenners in Princes Street. There’s a sideways tribute to Fran and Anna in the couthie dancing in headscarves to a scratchy recording of a Scottish Country dance band playing Cock o’ the North (aka Auntie Mary had a Canary) that induced a spontaneous clap along while the villain from Black Beauty brings about some good old panto shouting. Horsey music from theme tunes from the Horse of the Year Show and Bonanza to the old nursery rhyme Horsey Horsey Don’t You Stop is background throughout this thoroughly equine show where even My Little Pony plays its part.

Black Beauty’s own story ends with his words ‘My troubles are all over and I am at home’ suggesting peace and quiet for an old horse. This Black Beauty has a happy ending too but one that knocks the socks off the audience in its out and out joyful craziness.

With interval ice cream flavours of chocolate rum and ginger chiming with the show and Messrs Andy even taking a bow in cuddie character, this innovative, hilarious piece of theatre is an all- round treat for children of all ages. Ya Beauty right enough!

2 - 24 Dec 2016 times vary then touring till February 2017