Eddie and the Slumber Sisters
- David Pollock
- 3 May 2018
Catherine Wheels' latest production is a fun yet poignant look at loss
Meet the Slumber Sisters, a trio of women who act as guardians of children's bedtime hours, making sure that sleep is calm and that nobody loses their appetite or gets in trouble at school during the day. They're a kind of dreamtime Charlie's Angels styled like World War II aviators, with parents getting the reference to that 70s show when the voice of their disembodied leader Charles starts issuing instructions.
It seems they've met their match, however, when ten-year-old Eddie becomes their subject, a young girl whose sleeping problems seem impossible to solve. It becomes clear that Eddie's worries lie in the recent death of her beloved gran, so the trio embark on a mission to the waking world to remind Eddie of the good times which, for her and her granny, meant the sound of Elvis Presley and the smell of chicken noodle Cup-a-Soup.
As one of the children's theatre companies who were infamously subject to Creative Scotland cuts recently and then reinstated following an outcry from the industry, it's not unfair to note that all eyes are on Catherine Wheels' new production in association with the National Theatre of Scotland. First impressions are good, with Karen Tennent's in-the-round set of towers, doorways and a revolving stage creating a junkyard of the imagination, a place where anything can happen.
Admittedly there's much in writer Anita Vettesse's premise which even the target audience of over-8s might find twee, but the script as well as the direction of Catherine Wheels' artistic director Gill Robertson grows perfectly as the play advances from a Doctor Who-type fantasy for younger viewers to the weighty issue of death and coming to terms with someone close being gone for good.
At the heart of the piece's ultimate success are three lively, physical and perfectly-pitched comedy performances from Natalie Arle-Toyne, Colette Dalal Tchantcho and India Shaw-Smith as the sisters (Shaw-Smith deserves special mention for raising the bar as the agent chosen to win Eddie's trust by impersonating Elvis). Chiara Sparkes brings sadness and wonder to the part of Eddie, which helps strike the play's balance between memories of innocent fun and the poignant acceptance of death.
Eddie and the Slumber Sisters is touring until Sunday 3 June. Seen at the Corn Exchange, Haddington, Thursday 3 May.