- David Pollock
- 17 December 2018
An entertainingly random production from Scotland's Nonsense Room
The unfilmable novel which ultimately makes it to the screen is a common trope in the cinema, and this latest production from Scotland's Nonsense Room creates a similar genre; the unstageable children's book which has somehow, against the odds, made its way to being a cohesive and entertaining stage play. Nonsense Room have plenty of experience of such adaptations, of course – including of Shark in the Park, which was entirely created by You Choose's illustrator Nick Sharratt – but this book by Sharratt and writer Pippa Goodhart presents its own problems.
Here, Nonsense Room promise 'a different story in every show', which is intended to mirror the 'choose your own adventure' effect of the book itself; except in the book, there's no narrative to speak of, more just an adventure of imagination-firing choices for small children to make, enhanced by the visual delight of Sharratt's bright and deceptively simple images. From packed spreads, readers can select the themed outfit, the setting, the shoes and hat they want to wear, the vehicle they want to travel in, and so on. Yet there's no ultimate story to be told, aside from the ones all these images spark in little minds.
It's up to Nonsense Room, then, to make sense of all of these images for the stage, and to undertake the unenviable task of converting the implied, almost subliminal storytelling of the book into something concrete and transportable as an hour's worth of theatre. From a scenario devised by the company using the books as a template, directors Bruce Strachan and Kirsten Cairns are given a headstart by the design and projections of Eve Murray and Gilchrist Muir, respectively, who use Sharratt's original drawings to create a vivid sense of the book.
Performers Paul Beeson and Carrie Mancini are given the roles of the boy and girl who pop up throughout the original You Choose, and the manner in which they go about the choosing is joyous, inviting young volunteers from the audience to play a version of the game Top Trumps (although they aren't allowed to call it that) to pick a character, and kicking off a frenzied race through the crowd to pass inflatable animals to the front. It's all as entertainingly random as the book, particularly for those younger people in attendance, although it's at least as much a gameshow as it is a piece of theatre, with the quick story at the end inevitably not as satisfying as the exciting ride to get there.
You Choose is at Festival Square Spiegeltent, Edinburgh, until Sat 5 Jan.